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Full text of "John La Farge, a memoir and a study"

i 



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in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/johnlafargememoiOOcort_0 



3Sj> Kopal Cnrtifiifio^ 

JOHN LA FARGE. Illustrated with photo- 
gravures. 

AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS. Illustrated 
with photogravures. 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 
Boston and New York 



JOHN LA FARGE 



JOHN LA FARGE 

A MEMOIR AND A STUDY 

BY 

ROYAL CORTISSOZ 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

MDCCCCXI 



COPYRIGHT 1 9 1 I BY ROYAL CORTISSOZ 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

Published April igi i 



TO 
THE MEMORY OF 
JOHN LA FARGE 



PREFACE 

My debt to the subject of this memoir must 
on every page be apparent to the reader, but 
I wish here to make formal acknowledgment 
of it. Without La Farge's aid I could not have 
made my study biographical as well as critical. 
I have also to thank, for many helpful courte- 
sies, Miss Grace Edith Barnes, in the last ten 
years of his life his private secretary and ap- 
pointed by him the executrix of his estate. He 
made her familiar with much in his career, and 
the light she has thus been enabled to throw 
upon it has been generously shared with me. 
I am under obligation to Mr. Henry Adams 
for material of great importance, embracing 
the letters addressed to him from which I have 
quoted, the notable analysis extracted from 
his privately printed " Education of Henry 
Adams," and some further reflections on his 
old friend and fellow-traveller in Japan and 
the South Seas. Mr. James Huneker has been 
kind enough to lend me a sheaf of La Farge's 
letters to him. A note from the late Augustus 
Saint-Gaudens is reproduced by the permis- 
sion of his son, Homer Saint-Gaudens, and of 



I viii ] 

the Century Company. I have finally to thank 
the editors of the Century Magazine and the 
New Tork Tribune for authority to make use 
of passages of my own previously contributed 
to their respective publications. 

Royal Cortissoz. 

New York, February 1 o, 1911. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

I. A Study for a Portrait i 

II. Ancestry and Early Life 41 

III. Europe 74 

IV. The Evolution of an Artist 100 
V. Half a Century of Painting 126 

VI. Glass 183 

VII. The Old Master 206 

Index 265 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

John La Farge in I860 Frontispiece 

From a daguerreotype. 

Paradise Valley 24 

From the painting in the possession of Gen. Thorn- 
ton K. Lothrop, Boston. 

Sleeping Woman 42 

From the early painting destroyed by fire. 

Wild Roses and Water Lily 56 

From the water-color in the possession of M. B. Phil- 
ippe Esq., New York. 

The Three Kings 74 

From the painting in the possession of the. Museum 
of Fine Arts, Boston. 

' ' Noli Me Tangere ' ' 80 

From the mural painting in St. Thomases Church, 
New York, destroyed by fire. (After an engraving 
by C.A. Powell.) 

Christ and Nicodemus 90 

From the mural painting in Trinity Church, Boston. 

John La Farge in 1885 100 

From a photograph. 

The Ascension 126 

From the mural painting in the Church of the Ascen- 
sion, New York. Reproduced from a photograph 
in the possession of Miss Serena Rhinelander. 



Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai 150 

From the cartoon for the mural painting in the Su- 
preme Court Room of the Capitol at St. Paul, Minn. 

The Peacock Window 184 

From the window in the possession of the Art Mu- 
seum, Worcester, Mass. 

Fruit and Flower Garland 194 

From the decorative panel painted in wax. 

John La Farge in 1902 206 

From the portrait by Wilton Lockwood. 

Waterfall in our Garden at Nikko, Japan 220 

From the water-color in the possession of H. P. Whit- 
ney, Esq., New York. 

Official Presentation of Gifts of Food — 
Samoa 242 

From the wash drawing. 

Reproduced and somewhat enlarged upon the cover is the 

seal designed by Rizio Awoki for fohn La Farge and 

cut in ivory for him when he was in fapan 

in 1 886. It embodies his surname in 

fapanese characters. 



JOHN LA FARGE 



I 

A STUDY FOR A 
PORTRAIT 

IT was a characteristic of John La Farge 
that he had a distaste for the promiscuous 
shaking of hands. Something in him shrank 
with almost feminine sensitiveness from all 
personal contacts, and he was amusingly adroit 
in evading the particular one to which the or- 
dinary friendly human being is addicted. No 
visitor was ever allowed to guess that his well- 
meant salutation had been amiably frustrated. 
He simply found La Farge with a brush in 
one hand and a handkerchief in the other, and 
to dispense with the usual mode of greeting 
seemed, of course, the most natural thing in 
the world. Fate made La Farge an artist. By 
the slightest change of whim she might have 
made him a diplomat. In that case he would 
have distinguished himself, above all, by sav- 
ing his government from everything that 
looked like coercion. He had a gift for the 
avoidance of those things that he did not want 
to do. 



C * 3 

The trait testified to neither obstinacy nor 
a want of sympathy for others. It denoted, 
rather, a fastidiousness, which, with an idomi- 
table individuality, made him an artist — and 
a very exacting one — in whatever concerned 
himself. The ego in him was intense, and, 
though swathed in the silken folds of an old- 
world courtesy, it stood implacably upon its 
rights. This very aloofness of his, these very 
reserves which counted so heavily in the order- 
ing of his life, have proved, on the other hand, 
of service to his biographer. La Farge's re- 
spect for himself is intertwined, for me, with 
his respect for his art and for the artistic 
history which he knew, as a man of his ge- 
nius could not but know, he had helped to 
make. I remember visiting an exhibition of 
his and receiving from him the next day a re- 
quest that I would go and look at it again. " I 
have had the distressing red carpet covered 
with a white gray crash," he said, " all I could 
find in the hurry, but even that improves the 
color and tone to such an extent as to make it 
look differently to me. At least most of the red 
glare is off." The anxiety which an artist feels 
for the proper presentation of his work was 
ever wakeful in La Farge. If he wanted to 



is 3 

show you a picture in his studio he would make 
sure of the hour of the day providing just the 
right light or he would not show it at all. These 
precautions, bearing upon the business of the 
moment, were redoubled in behalf of anything 
that bore upon the future. Whenever it was a 
question of establishing on firm ground the 
record of a specific episode, all those reserves at 
which I have glanced fell away and he was the 
willing aid of his interlocutor. I was always 
writing about his work, and in our purely pro- 
fessional relations he was as helpful as he was 
punctilious. Upon the freedom of the critic he 
would have scorned to impose so much as a 
feather's weight of restraint. In matters of 
opinion his open-mindednessknewno bounds. 
But in matters of fact it seemed to him impor- 
tant to get the details straight in even the brief- 
est and most fugitive of chapters. It was to this 
solicitude for authenticity of statement that I 
was indebted, through many years, for invalu- 
able communications. 

One of these, dating from a time when I was 
preparing a survey of his career, began with a 
recollection of something he had read in a book 
by John Oliver Hobbes, "that very intelligent 
woman, so American and so « awfully' Euro- 



[4 H 
peari," as he called her. He had forgotten her 
exact words, but their meaning, "though bet- 
ter expressed," was more or less as follows: 
"That the career of an artist, as we see it, 
might be the expression of his professional 
intentions or else a record of his personal de- 
velopment, of which the works of art would 
merely be the external indication/ ' This 
seemed to him worth noting, he said, " even 
if it has nothing to do with what you and I are 
concerned in." Looking to the personal ques- 
tion actually between us, the question of his 
own career, he prefaced a long analysis of his 
experience in the painting of landscape with 
these words : — 

" I have, of course, no idea of how you are 
going to handle the facts of my life as an artist, 
externally or internally. What I am anxious 
about is to tell you what I know, and what I 
think, of certain things I have done. Whether 
they are known or appear to others as they do 
to me is another matter. The mere facts, how- 
ever, are matters of date or of record, and are 
not things of appreciation except in the sense 
of gauging their importance. In the different 
cases of a good deal of my work these points 
of how and why I came to do a thing are im- 



C5 3 
portant to me because they are usually unre- 
lated to anything being done outside at that 
time." 

The drift of this passage explains why it is 
worth while, and, in fact, helpful to a clearer 
understanding of LaFarge's character, for me 
to describe in some detail the origin of this 
volume. He wished to write his reminiscences 
and made fitful attempts to do so, but ill-health 
handicapped him, and constantly, when he had 
the energy and was in the mood, his work as 
an artist enforced the first claim. Several years 
ago it occurred to me to bring together much 
of the criticism which I had devoted to his 
work, and he received the idea with cordial 
sympathy. I told him that for such a mono- 
graph certain biographical details were essen- 
tial, and he cheerfully agreed to put them in 
my hands. As time went on he developed an 
intense interest in the book, coming to regard 
it as a kind of repository for the recollections 
and reflections which, in other circumstances, 
he might have embodied in a book of his own. 
We had been close friends for some twenty 
years and there was a perfect trust between 
us. He gave me freely what he had already 
put into manuscript, and continued to write, as 



[6 ] 
he had written in other times, memories of 
his life and his practice as an artist for me to 
use. 

When something recurred to him that he 
thought belonged to the narrative he would 
send it to me in a letter, or I would receive a 
message like this : " Perhaps to-morrow, at 
some off hour, you might be tempted to come 
and be surprised, and perhaps entertained, by 
a little story I have to tell. It 's queer, and 
worth turning out of one's way for. I thought 
of Sunday, because it is labelled a day of rest. 
I forgot that such people as you or I may 
choose that day otherwise." In another note 
he remarks, apropos of our meeting soon 
thereafter, that he perhaps will have to tell 
me "some more curiosities,' ' and in still an- 
other he says, " I had an absurdity on my mind 
which will keep many days." As his interest 
grew, and the book took on more and more of 
the character of a record, he showed me more 
and more of the helpfulness and even anxiety 
of a collaborator. Once, when I had been too 
absorbed in other duties to go on with the task, 
he wrote saying, " I have no news ever from 
you. Evidently you are not writing up my 
life." Nevertheless we found many occasions 



to sit down together for conversations, lasting 
far into the night, of which it was understood 
between us that I would afterwards take such 
notes as memory made possible. Those were 
happy evenings, continued assiduously until 
by and by illness brought them to an end. 
Presently, too, from the same cause, our meet- 
ings by daylight were given more to casual 
talk than to the reconstruction of old times and 
scenes. But that historical sense of his to which 
I referred at the outset never left him, and 
down to the end his letters carried on the 
thread of our subject, or spoke of further pas- 
sages that he had planned. In one of them, 
dating from his last illness, he says, " I intend 
writing you a long, long screed to continue the 
autobiography of which you are to make a 
'Biograph.' ... I still hope to see you some 
day," and only a few weeks before his death 
he wrote me again, thus: "I must answer 
your letter in full, there is so much to take up, 
both for us here and for the record abroad. 
But it is only to-day that I see a chance to get 
a stenographer for dictation and then you will 
be deluged." 

The deluge never came. There was rest, 
instead, for that kindling brain and that inde- 



[ 8 ] 
fatigable hand. From the citations I have made 
the reader will understand my desire to use 
in the following pages, wherever possible, 
La Farge's words, rather than my own, and 
he will realize, too, the peculiar sense of re- 
sponsibility with which I have undertaken to 
carry out my task. This book is, in some sort, 
the fulfilment of a purpose shared by La Farge 
and myself. The reader who suspects that it 
has been written in affection will not be far 
wrong. From the exaggerations of uncritical 
hero-worship biographers sometimes go to the 
other extreme, and, out of a solemnly ex- 
pressed respect for "the verdict of posterity," 
hesitate to give free play to the faith that is 
in them. Doubtless this is judicious, but doubt- 
less, too, it smacks a little of evasion. I am 
abundantly aware that I have no business with 
the verdict of posterity, but of one thing I am 
convinced, and that is that La Farge was a 
great artist, and, into the bargain, a man to 
love. It was my good fortune to know him 
intimately for a long period and to be with 
him often, alone, in talk which knew no bar- 
riers. Our friendship was never even momen- 
tarily disturbed by so much as the shadow of 
a shadow. It is with grateful loyalty to a be- 



[ 9 1 
loved master in the things of the mind that I 
have sought to draw his portrait. 

It is at this stage of my undertaking that 
I wish I could achieve the impossible, and, as 
a preliminary toward the recital of many of 
La Farge's own sayings, so paint him that the 
reader might see and hear him. The charm of 
La Farge was prodigiously heightened by the 
originality and distinction of his countenance, 
the vividness of the appeal made through his 
carriage, his typical gestures, and a quiet but 
curiously rich and characterful voice. He had 
the thinker's skull, amply domed, and his dark 
brown hair, extraordinarily fine and silky, re- 
tained its color long after age had set its mark 
upon him. In fact, it was only very late, when 
he had entered upon the final struggle with 
illness, that the graying of his hair became 
noticeable. His features both harmonized with 
the pure structure of his head and gave it ele- 
ments of strangeness, like the accents placed 
here and there by genius in a great sculptured 
portrait. The nose was long, straight, and pow- 
erful, with nostrils well curved, delicate in 
texture, very firmly defined, the nose of a 
man of breeding. It descended from between 
strongly marked brows, which, with the fine 



c 1° 1 

green-gray eyes, gave the face its most arrest- 
ing note of individuality, though the ears, too, 
large and beautifully set, were full of char- 
acter. His eyes were generously lidded and 
seemed to come forward from their big, deep 
sockets with a rounded weightiness again sug- 
gesting a statue. They were opened wide in 
moments of astonishment, of indignation and 
irony, but I chiefly remember them peering 
through half-closed lids and expressive of re- 
flection, of brooding enquiry. The straightly 
drawn mouth, with lips that were firm but 
could be very mobile, and the solid chin spoke 
of determination, authority, and an unshakable 
self-confidence. His skin was close-grained 
and smooth, with a soft w r armth of tint difficult 
to describe, for it partook of the olive hue of 
the Southern Latin races and of that quality, 
suggestive of wax or of parchment, which you 
will often find in the scholar of any clime. His 
was one of those complexions which seem, in 
fact, to take their subdued richness of color 
from an inner, spiritual glow. 

He was a man of good height, though lat- 
terly a stooping habit withdrew attention from 
the fact that he was full six feet tall, as it like- 
wise disguised his possession of an unusually 



C » 3 

deep chest. His feet were small and well 
formed, long and slender, like his hands, and 
those, with their aristocratic fingers, were the 
hands of an artist in the fullest sense of the 
traditional phrase. His figure left an impres- 
sion of leanness, until you came to observe its 
good proportions and to realize that he was not 
what is usually called a bony type, but simply 
a man whose laborious and refined habit of 
life had naturally kept him in spare condition. 
Refinement in its very essence was subtly pro- 
claimed in all the details of his appearance and 
in all his little idiosyncrasies. I saw him, occa- 
sionally, in other colors, in gray or in brown, 
but as a rule he is associated in my mind with 
black. Whatever he wore testified to an in- 
tense fastidiousness. Linen and silk could not 
be of too fine a texture for him. He lived 
softly, as the saying goes, not from an indo- 
lent or sensuous taste, but because the artist 
in him rebelled against the second best or the 
thing rough to the touch. He would be as ex- 
acting about his handkerchiefs, say, as about 
the implements on his painting table, or the 
Japanese paper on which he made so many 
of his drawings. His garments were like his 
demeanor, unthought of by him, in a sense, 



C > 2 3 

but part of his belief that life should be gra- 
cious and dignified, neat, well ordered, and 
always protected, somehow, from careless- 
ness and disrespect. And never for an instant 
did his conformity to a severe standard of taste 
chill or otherwise overpower his sheer delight- 
fulness. 

The photograph of him which serves as a 
frontispiece to this volume shows how hand- 
some, handsome indeed to the point of fasci- 
nation, he was in his youth. My friend, the 
late Katharine Prescott Wormeley, the trans- 
lator of Balzac, knew him well in old Newport 
days, and, telling me how interesting he then 
was, she laid stress upon the fact that he was 
notably picturesque. He was always that, but 
in his prime, when I first knew him, with the 
picturesqueness softened and given as it were 
a rich reposeful tone, by something subtly pre- 
latical. The first time I ever dined with him, 
long ago, we sat alone at one of the vast tables 
in the old Brevoort House, taken care of by a 
waiter whose sedateness and efficiency marked 
him as an embodiment of the tradition of that 
once famous hotel. La Farge fitted beautifully 
into that old « Washington Square " picture, a 
type of our older regime, the calm, authorita- 



tive and exquisitely urbane man of the world. 
But even then I saw his ceremonious habit 
tempered and lightened by the franchise of the 
artist ; and, only a few evenings later, I had a 
deeper initiation into his charm when, in the 
big shadowy studio he had for half a century 
in the old Tenth Street building, we discussed 
by candle light a meal improvised on one of 
the working tables by his Japanese retainer. 
Then I saw better how La Farge was, what I 
always found him thereafter down to the day 
of his death, a blend of entirely mundane so- 
phistication with the easy, informal, lovable 
traits of a man so whole-heartedly given to 
artistic and intellectual things that, while he 
valued forms and conventions and could not 
do without them, he could not for the life of 
him overestimate their importance. When he 
had shown you the necessary courtesies he 
settled down to talk, and in place of the tone 
of the drawing-room he gave you that which 
belongs to the romantic world of art. 

I have heard some brilliant talkers, Whist- 
ler amongst them, but I have never heard one 
even remotely comparable to La Farge. He 
knew nothing of the glittering, phrase-making 
habit of the merely clever man, to whom the 



C 14 3 
condensation of a bit of repartee into an epi- 
gram is a triumph. "I am not a clever man," 
he once said to me, « but sometimes I do clever 
things. I think when that happens it is the 
work of the daemon of Socrates." He gave 
me a droll instance. He was dictating to a 
typewriter who made a mess of the names of 
some Chinese gods. " Like a flash I said to her, 
'Miss X., you have put in here the name of 
your best man.' She blushed violently and ad- 
mitted it." He paused. "They often do that," 
he added, with one of his understanding smiles. 
There were often, by the way, such flashes of 
innocent fun as this in his conversation, but 
he held you, of course, on a far higher plane. 
There he practised a serene eloquence, ranging 
over fields so spacious that in addition to the 
weighty substance of his talk he stimulated 
the listener as with a sense of large issues, of 
brave venturings into seas of thought. He had 
seen the world, he had known a multitude of 
men and things, and this rich experience re- 
acted upon his nature. But his complexity was 
a central possession, it was of the very texture 
of his soul. There went with it, too, a pecu- 
liar poise, a strange, self-centred calm. His 
pronounced sympathy for the East was easily 



understood. He liked its attitude of contem- 
plation. His own habit was meditative. But 
where his individuality made a still further 
claim was in the direction of a tremendous in- 
tellectual and spiritual activity. 

To sit with him in fervid talk on a thousand 
things was to feel, presently, that he flung out 
a myriad invisible tentacles of understanding, 
electric filaments which in an instant identified 
him with the subject of his thought and made 
him free of its innermost secrets. And what he 
gathered through these magical processes he 
brought back and put before you, slowly, with 
an almost oracular deliberation, but in such 
living words and with such an artistic balanc- 
ing of his periods that you saw what he saw, 
felt what he felt, and waited in positively tense 
enjoyment for the unfolding of the next men- 
tal picture. I have spoken of his periods. The 
phrase is, perhaps, not quite exact, for a sen- 
tence of LaFarge's might carry you almost 
anywhere before arriving at its goal. The goal 
was always reached. The certainty of that 
consummation was one more of his spells. You 
watched and waited in absolute security but 
sometimes a little breathlessly, for La Farge 
was a past master of the parenthesis and he 



C 16 3 

hated to let go of his collateral lines of thought. 
It was as though he glanced wistfully at them, 
as at ripples in the wake of his leading motive, 
and grudged their loss. There were moments 
when he would pause to recapture them. 
There were others when, with a smile, he let 
them fade, as one who would say, whimsically, 
"We could have got some profitable varia- 
tions out of that theme. " 

What he said was inspiring, but there was 
an added stimulus for the listener in this con- 
versational mode of his ; by itself it fostered 
liberal thought and especially gave you the 
warm and thrilling sensation of being in the 
presence of pure genius. It is the singularity 
of that genius that I am particularly anxious 
to enforce and hence I am glad to be permit- 
ted to quote the finest analysis of it that I 
know. This was written by Mr. Henry Ad- 
ams, the historian, with whom La Farge made 
his Japanese and South Sea journeys. It occurs 
in "The Education of Henry Adams," the 
work which the author wrote in the third per- 
son. Thus it runs : — 

" Of all the men who had deeply affected 
their friends since 1850 John La Farge was 
certainly the foremost, and for Henry Adams, 



C »7 ] 

who had sat at his feet since 1872, the ques- 
tion how much he owed to La Farge could be 
answered only by admitting that he had no 
standard to measure it by. Of all his friends 
La Farge alone owned a mind complex enough 
to contrast against the commonplaces of 
American uniformity, and in the process had 
vastly perplexed most Americans who came 
in contact with it. The American mind, — the 
Bostonian as well as the Southern or Western, 
— likes to walk straight up to its object, and 
assert or deny something that it takes for a 
fact ; it has a conventional approach, a con- 
ventional analysis, and a conventional conclu- 
sion, as well as a conventional expression, all 
the time loudly asserting its unconvention- 
ality. The most disconcerting trait of John 
La Farge was his reversal of the process. His 
approach was quiet and indirect ; he moved 
round an object, and never separated it from 
its surroundings ; he prided himself on faith- 
fulness to tradition and convention ; he was 
never abrupt and abhorred dispute. His man- 
ners and attitude towards the universe were 
the same, whether tossing in the middle of 
the Pacific Ocean sketching the trade-wind 
from a whale-boat in the blast of sea-sickness, 



C I 8 3 
or drinking the cha-no-yu in the formal rites 
of Japan, or sipping his cocoa-nut cup of Kava 
in the ceremonial of Samoan chiefs, or reflect- 
ing under the sacred bo-tree at Anaradjpura. 

"One was never quite sure of his whole 
meaning until too late to respond, for he had 
no difficulty in carrying different shades of 
contradiction in his mind. As he said of his 
friend Okakura, his thought ran as a stream 
runs through grass, hidden perhaps but al- 
ways there ; and one felt often uncertain in 
what direction it flowed, for even a contradic- 
tion was to him only a shade of difference, a 
complementary color, about which no intelli- 
gent artist would dispute. Constantly he re- 
pulsed argument: — 'Adams, you reason too 
much ! ' was one of his standing reproaches 
even in the mild discussion of rice and man- 
goes in the warm night of Tahiti dinners. He 
should have blamed Adams for being born in 
Boston. The mind resorts to reason for want 
of training, and Adams had never met a per- 
fectly trained mind. 

"To La Farge, eccentricity meant conven- 
tion ; a mind really eccentric never betrayed 
it. True eccentricity was a tone, — a shade, 
— a nuance, — and the finer the tone, the 



C 19 ] 
truer the eccentricity. Of course all artists 
hold more or less the same point of view in 
their art, but few carry it into daily life, and 
often the contrast is excessive between their 
art and their talk. One evening Humphreys 
Johnston, who was devoted to La Farge, 
asked him to meet Whistler at dinner. La 
Farge was ill, — more ill than usual even for 
him, — but he admired and liked Whistler 
and insisted on going. By chance, Adams was 
so placed as to overhear the conversation of 
both, and had no choice but to hear that of 
Whistler, which engrossed the table. At that 
moment the Boer war was raging, and, as 
every one knows, on that subject Whistler 
raged worse than the Boers. For two hours 
he declaimed against England, — witty, de- 
clamatory, extravagant, bitter, amusing and 
noisy ; but in substance what he said was not 
merely commonplace, — it was true ! That is 
to say, his hearers, including Adams and, as 
far as he knew, La Farge, agreed with it all, 
and mostly as a matter of course; yet La 
Farge was silent, and this difference of ex- 
pression was a difference of art. Whistler in 
his art carried the sense of nuance and tone far 
beyond any point reached by La Farge, or 



even attempted ; but in talk he showed, above 
or below his color-instinct, a willingness to 
seem eccentric where no real eccentricity, un- 
less perhaps of temper, existed. 

« This vehemence, which Whistler never 
betrayed in his painting, La Farge seemed to 
lavish on his glass. ... In conversation La 
Farge's mind was opaline with infinite shades 
and refractions of light, and with color toned 
down to the finest gradations. In glass it was 
insubordinate ; it was renaissance ; it asserted 
his personal force with depth and vehemence 
of tone never before seen. He seemed bent 
on crushing rivalry." 

The " infinite shades and refractions of 
light " which Mr. Adams describes had the 
effect of etching upon the hearer's mind pic- 
tures of a phenomenal completeness and vivid- 
ness. La Farge had the power of the necro- 
mancer to take you, as though on a carpet out 
of the "Arabian Nights," away from the world 
of prose into one of thought and beauty. An 
instance salient amongst my recollections is 
connected with the opening of the Saint-Gau- 
dens memorial exhibition, at the Metropolitan 
Museum in New York, one night in March, 
1 908. He and the sculptor had been life-long 



C« 3 

friends and he had an affectionate desire to 
pay him the tribute of sharing in this formal 
observance, but he was not well and shrank 
from going alone. We went together. On the 
way there in a cab he told me, apropos of his 
walking stick, which had been cut for him by 
a cannibal chief, some of his memories of the 
Fiji Islands. He was struck by the queer mix- 
ture there of civilized and barbaric traits. 
Speaking of the good breeding of the natives 
he described the resemblance of some of them 
to the well-set-up, hard clubman of New York 
or London, who looks after himself with un- 
abashed selfishness but in a gentlemanly way. 
He told me how he and his companion upon 
those South Sea travels rejoiced over the re- 
port of the British Governor, who, on a cer- 
tain occasion, was accepting the submission 
of the chiefs. This functionary was not alto- 
gether sure about giving his countenance to 
one member of the company, for, he said, 
« He is not a gentleman." " It was so per- 
fectly true/' said La Farge, and went on in an 
analysis of the barbaric character so entranc- 
ing that our arrival at the Museum induced a 
kind of shock. 

He was enormously interested and pleased 



[ 22 ] 

with what he found there — and very amus- 
ing on the beauty of "the living sculpture" 
which filled the great hall — but after he had 
held court for a little while, talking with the 
people he knew, we came away. What im- 
pressed me about the whole episode was its 
note of dedication to a cherished friend. Ill 
and tired as he was, he had by his presence 
given testimony to the faithfulness with which 
he held the memory of Saint-Gaudens in his 
heart. It was late by the time we had found 
our cab ; but for talk it was as though the 
night had only just begun, and all the way 
home I listened to probably the most remark- 
able piece of easy, natural, but truly inspir- 
ing eloquence the gods could ever give me. 
It was discursive, as usual, infinitely paren- 
thetical, but it possessed that unity which, as 
I have said, he always secured. He told me 
about a journey made by his friend Okakura 
in the East, a visit to an historic Chinese mon- 
astery far from cities. The traveller was wel- 
comed in a bare little room by a priest who 
sat down upon the floor to a stringed instru- 
ment and spoke, as it were, through its music. 
Then followed different ceremonies, which 
were somehow made as real to me as obser- 



C 2 3 ] 

varices in a Western church ; after that came 
the count of Okakura's full days, the priestly 
farewell, spoken again in music, and, at last, 
the sacramental bowl lifted to the lips of the 
speeding guest under an ancient tree some 
distance from the monastery. In the night 
outside our cab the noises of the street seemed 
to sink into silence, the ranks of commonplace 
buildings to give way to a far landscape, and, 
literally, I seemed to hear the thin notes ris- 
ing from beneath the mysterious priest's yel- 
low fingers. Again, at La Farge's door, one 
seemed to be wakened from a dream. 

I should be leaving my tale but half told 
if I failed to lay stress upon the fact that the 
compelling glamour of La Farge's talk, of 
these reveries made articulate, was deepened 
by the character of his physiognomy, which, 
true to the varied impulses of his being, had 
the power to stir one, in different times and 
moods, to very different mental associations. 
In a characteristic attitude of earlier years he 
stays in my memory as a singularly alert 
and nervous figure, with hands thrust in his 
pockets, head jerked back, mouth twisted, 
and the muscles of his face taut as he stood 
round-eyed with comic amazement — good- 



C 2 * 3 
humoredly astounded at the eternal banality 
of things. He seemed very modern then and 
very human. Later, when he had begun to pay 
his debt to time, the wonderfully modelled 
head, with its great brow, sank a little between 
the shoulders, and, as he burrowed down into 
a big chair and gloomed gently at his compan- 
ion through the rims of his wide spectacles, he 
looked like some majestic dignitary musing 
in the obscure recesses of an Oriental temple. 
The subdued ivory tint which distinguished 
his complexion in his old age especially con- 
tributed to this impression, and then, too, his 
profound passion for the East made it in some 
inexplicable fashion the easier thus to visual- 
ize him. Again there were times when you felt 
that he wore the mask of an old Italian priest. 
In the Renaissance he would have been a Car- 
dinal statesman, one of those militant princes 
of the Church who triumphed, however, by 
astuteness rather than by force of arms, and 
Mantegna would have rejoiced to paint his 
portrait, as Pisanello would with gladness 
have made his rare profile immortal within the 
narrow limits of a medal. The impenetrability 
stamped upon his face would only have made 
the appeal to their imagination the stronger. 



Paradise Valley 




1 



C 2 5 ] 

A habit of secretiveness, when it is not ren- 
dered ignoble by relation to petty things, will 
put a patina of mystery upon the personality 
of a man. La Farge, who wore this impalpable 
armor, was made still more baffling by some- 
thing alien and exotic in his nature. His ap- 
pearance denoted subtle alliances with things 
outside our everyday life. Beside him entirely 
admirable people, who never in their lives 
committed a solecism and had brains into the 
bargain, still seemed a little crude and flat. I 
used often to reflect as we sat talking together 
that his being in New York at all was an in- 
congruity, a sacrifice, and a frustration. He 
should have dwelt in Paris and spent Olym- 
pian evenings there, discussing monumental 
decorations with Puvis, or Italian mysticism 
with Gebhart, or Latin literature with Bois- 
sier, or religious origins with Renan and Salo- 
mon Reinach. Best of all, he should have held 
endless discourse on everything under the 
sun with that "pawky Benedictine" — as he 
himself might have been called — Anatole 
France. He should have been another Pierre 
Loti, cosseted by the State and sent up and 
down the world in a warship to collect sensa- 
tions. On his return, as he donned the palm 



C 26 ] 

leaves of an Academician and accepted the 
greetings of respectfully attentive colleagues, 
he would have interpreted to them the genius 
of remote peoples with an insight and a philo- 
sophic wisdom of which Loti never dreamed. 
If I speak of him as a spiritual exile it is not 
because he lacked, here, the company of his 
peers. A man who could hope for even one 
encounter in a year or two with a friend such 
as Clarence King, for example, might recon- 
cile himself to a desert island. But La Farge 
needed a frame, a tradition, an environment 
part and parcel of the sequence of civilization 
to which he belonged. With his work to do he 
would have been happy anywhere, and he was 
indubitably happy and content as an Ameri- 
can. Yet the spirit of old Europe or that of the 
older Orient was forever pulling at his heart- 
strings, and, though he never had a syllable 
of complaint to make about his destiny, I was 
often conscious of an unspoken ruefulness in 
him, a half-amused wonder as to whether, 
somewhere else in the world, there might not 
be springs at which it would be a little more 
satisfying to drink. He loved his country. If 
shortsightedness had not disqualified him he 
would have gone to the front in the Civil War. 



C 2 ? 3 
His fellow artists know with what generosity 
and effectiveness he gave himself to the ad- 
vancement of our school. Nevertheless my 
sense of his detachment from his surroundings 
will not down. For all his interest in them, 
his understanding of them, and, at many 
points, his sympathy for them, his inner life 
was lived in a singular isolation. 

This never betrayed his sense of proportion. 
He saw life and himself too justly for that and 
he was too ready to smile at the fatuity of any 
man's imagining that he was too big for his 
opportunity. In his smile, kindly and quizzi- 
cal, there was, before all else, complete com- 
prehension. His humor was not precisely 
saturnine, but it was very subtile and a little 
malin, too intellectualized for it to seem the 
mere gayety of the ordinary man in high spir- 
its. He practised the delicate art of thinking 
as constantly and as naturally as he breathed, 
and this gave a conscious direction to even the 
most spontaneous flashes of his fun. All the 
relations of life were dramatized in that quick 
brain of his, so swiftly, and with so far-reach- 
ing a flair for their last, most evanescent re- 
verberations or implications, that out of the 
smallest episode he could wring shades of sen- 



C 28 3 

sation undreamed of by another observer — 
or by the victim himself. Every word uttered, 
every letter written, every move made in the 
recondite game of life, though not long medi- 
tated, had, at all events, its sufficiently pon- 
dered purpose. He never discharged an arrow 
in the dark. It sometimes, too, reached its 
mark when his aim seemed most casual. 

As I write these lines I realize that they 
need, not correction, but extension into that 
atmosphere of mere human friendliness which 
robs gravity of its forbidding aspect and turns 
an eminent man into an endearing companion. 
La Farge could be, in his way, jolly. He liked 
now and then to have young people about him 
and to laugh with them. He adored "limer- 
icks," when they were killingly preposterous; 
and if he knew how to smile with consummate 
meaning he knew also how to chuckle, a gift 
with which cynicism is hardly compatible. Our 
evenings together might be never so absorb- 
ing in the seriousness of their topics, but there 
was always room in them for mirth. There 
was an old joke between us that cigars to be 
good must be large, fat, and of a fairly rich 
flavor. I would receive an invitation from him, 
couched in his never-failing terms of eigh- 



teenth-century courtesy, as in one summons 
to a new apartment he had taken — " the room 
is clean, that 's one thing, not much else in its 
favor except your coming " — and then there 
would be the familiar allusion to the tobacco 
without which a symposium was supposed to 
be unthinkable. "I have cigars," he would 
write, "decent whiskey, some poor cham- 
pagne, and average brandy — enough to put 
aside a few moments." We soon put them 
aside. With meticulous care he would see that 
all was in order, especially the matches, and 
then, in clouds of smoke, we would forget the 
liquids. Apropos of the latter, by the way, he 
told me that only once in his life had his taste 
in wine exceeded his discretion. With the late 
Russell Sturgis, himself a seasoned connois- 
seur, he sat down to enjoy some notable Bur- 
gundies. The feast had been appointed for that 
purpose. They gave their minds and palates 
to so many vintages as to so many works of 
art. Their heads were untouched. Ideas came 
only the more speedily. Conversation had 
never been more luminous or delightful. But 
when, with immense satisfaction in their even- 
ing, the diners sought to rise, their legs calmly 
refused to perform their accustomed office. 



Cso;i 

That was all that had happened, and that, 
though temporarily embarrassing, was inor- 
dinately funny. The mere memory of the in- 
cident was a source of huge amusement to La 
Farge. 

There was one trait of his into which all the 
rest were gathered up, his love of his work ; 
and what a tremendous driving force it was 
may be seen the more clearly if we consider 
the heavy handicap of ill health that he car- 
ried. In his letters there are constant allusions 
to this subject. As far back as 1 896 I find him 
saying, "It is a very broken down person who 
writes to you," and on another occasion he 
writes, " I feel as if I had a personal devil after 
me for the last eighteen months." For years 
it was a common experience with him to do 
much of his writing in bed. In fact, a certain 
physical disability dogged his footsteps prac- 
tically all his life long. In the fall of 1908, 
when news of his having been ill got into print, 
he sent me a long letter for publication in the 
Tribune , and in it gave this account of the bur- 
den against which he had had to contend : — 

"As I am led into talking about myself, I 
wish to note a matter which is interesting to 
me, and which is also interesting in a general 



manner, and this is that I have been off and on 
an ill man since the years 1866 and 1867. I 
was paralyzed by what later was supposed to 
be lead poisoning, which affects some of us 
painters very much, and which can be con- 
tinued in the practice of the art of what is 
called < stained glass,' where lead is much used 
and fills the air, and the hands, etc., of the 
people engaged. Notwithstanding, I have 
done, I think, as much as any artist since this 
illness. Indeed, to point a moral, I think that 
such a condition is an enormous incentive for 
struggle. The lame foot of the late Lord Byron 
was part of his equipment for becoming a great 
English poet. The same for many of the paint- 
ers — take Mr. Whistler, for instance, and 
one of the greatest, Delacroix, always an ill 
man, from a similar trouble to mine. The re- 
sult has been the same for me from my lame- 
ness, which has not always been apparent, but 
which is always there, and which city life and 
the necessary use of a cab ( at which my friends 
laugh) do not tend to diminish. In the open 
air of far-away countries one is better of every- 
thing, and I have walked and been in the 
saddle for days. 

"Some thirty odd years ago, when I un- 



dertook the beginning of decorative work in 
churches by painting Trinity Church, my 
kindly assistants had always to help me up 
the 30-foot ladder on to the great scaffold- 
ings. Not to mention Saint-Gaudens, who is 
dead, and others, Mr. Maynard, for instance, 
will remember our conditions. This did not 
prevent my painting on the wall, slung on a 
narrow board sixty feet above the floor of the 
church, with one arm passed around a rope 
and holding my palette, while the other was 
passed around the other rope, and I painted on 
my last figure, eighteen feet high, which had 
to be finished the next morning at 7 o'clock. 
I painted five hours that night in that way, and 
painted for twenty-one hours out of the twen- 
ty-four. For a sick man, you can see that the 
strain was well met, and many times since I 
have had to go through this physical strain 
of painting a big picture on the wall from the 
scaffoldings. " 

Nothing could shake his courageous tenacity. 
Even when he was laid on his back he would 
continue to labor. With neuritis in his right 
hand, so that "even opening a newspaper has 
been hard," he wrote me saying, "and yet I 
have done things. I hope the bad luck has not 



C33 ] 

been reflected in the work." When he could 
not work in bed he read there. "The proof 
that I have not given up things," he wrote me, 
"is that I am trying to find a copy of Huys- 
mans' 'Trois Primitifs.' Everyone knows it. 
No one has it. I have scoured town as far as I 
can. ... If I am not too faint I 'd like to see 
you." By good luck I had the book, and, faint 
as he was, he battened on it. But no reading 
could beguile him into compromising with 
bodily weakness and staying in bed an instant 
longer than he could help. Irresistibly his 
work would get him on his feet, and, if there 
is something painful, there is also something 
gallant and exhilarating, about the way in 
which he was forever pulling himself together, 
to go on with the labors which made, first and 
last, his truest happiness. 

Mingled with his ruling passion there was 
a sense of duty. Others were involved in his 
undertakings. There was the point of honor 
to remember, the obligation to be fulfilled. 
Thus he writes me : " The whirligig of time 
has brought its annoyances. Suddenly I am 
more or less on my back. ... I have a mul- 
titudinousness of ills and pains that must be 
cared for seriously ; because besides the things 



[ 34 ] 
themselves I have a lot of work to carry out, 
and I am reminded that I am part of a ma- 
chine like any other cog." At another time, 
complaining of "a series of strange failures 
of health," he nevertheless goes on to rejoice 
that he is back at his easel, exclaiming, "to- 
day I am very proud, because I have been able 
to stand up and paint. It seems a sort of dream 
when I look back upon the last few weeks ; 
the painting seems to be the unreal thing." 
Telling me in one of his letters how much he 
has had to put aside, he explains that " this is 
because I have decided to go on with my work 
and I have to treat myself as a broken-down 
automobile which has still to get back home. 
... I vary intervals of work by giving up 
everything and vice versa." But sometimes 
nature rebelled and he had to ease the strain, 
whether he would or no. Here is an illustra- 
tion of his reluctance to slacken work, though 
he knew that he had to do so : — 

"I am writing to you in bed, for I shall 
be driven when I get up. . . . All the spare 
strength and all the time of to-day will be 
given to so finishing my two big panels that I 
may get them to the Century Club to-mor- 
row. . . . Should it take your fancy, come in 



C 35 1 
and see me at the studio before that, even 
though I am at work to-day. . . . If you prefer 
seeing my two big traps, etc., in studio light 
and a little unfinished, all right. This, of 
course, is irregular and if Miss Barnes, my 
watchdog, were here, I should be informed 
that I was wasting painting time. But I know 
that I can't pull at it all day — I am not strong 
enough. . . . * There you are/ as Harry James 
has it." 

The admission that he must nurse his re- 
sources is only wrung from him by force ma- 
jeure. His ardor for work was so intense that 
he rebelled in something like wrathful bewil- 
derment when pain and illness gripped him. 
"Why?" he asked me once, with sorrowful 
indignation, "Why am I ill and why old?" 
No other mischance of fortune could seem to 
him half so cruel or so unnecessary. But, after 
all, it did not conclusively matter. Down to the 
end he was full of projects and splendid reso- 
lutions, intent upon carrying on his service to 
beauty the moment that strength returned. He 
knew that with energy restored the mere piling 
up of the years meant nothing. In the letter 
from which I have already given the story of 
his early and ever-recurring illness he goes on 



C 36^ 
to register in this way his belief in the pro- 
ductivity of old age : — 

"The operations of art are largely intel- 
lectual, and can be met by a life devoted 
to study and the acquirement of the proper 
knowledge. We have had and have still a 
good many distinguished artists who go on 
with their work late. The Frenchmen of the 
fifties and sixties persisted far up into the sev- 
enties and eighties, and that is without our 
daring to think of the past far away, when 
Michael Angelo and Titian worked up to a very 
late period of life. Most of the great paintings 
of Titian, as you know, such as the marvellous 
< Charles V,' and I do not know how many 
hundreds of others, were painted after his sev- 
enty-fifth year. In fact, as we know, he passed 
away at ninety-nine, owing to the pestilence 
which attacked Venice. As an artist friend of 
mine used to say, if it had not been for that 
he might still be painting. I cannot hope for 
such a lengthy chance of doing work and en- 
joying that wonderful art of expressing one's 
emotion, but I think that I may still go on for 
some little while." 

He was sustained in his hard-fought cam- 
paign by his sense of humor and his unfail- 



[37: 

ing appreciation of the little things of life, the 
pleasant little things. As in the experience 
of that acquaintance of Dr. Johnson, Oliver 
Edwards, " Cheerfulness was always break- 
ing in." The moment that suffering began to 
pass away he was ready for anything. Writing 
to me at such a point of improvement, he gayly 
says, " I am coming to that stage of being bet- 
ter at which my Samoan friends like a little 
raw fish. You know they have a special word 
in their language for that desire." When our 
smoking bouts had, perforce, been interrupted, 
and he had to say "I am still off my smoke," 
he would talk with much joking about the 
prospects of his soon getting back to his cigar. 
In sickness, too, nothing cheered him more 
than a word of goodwill and appreciation. He 
liked to know when his work was valued. 
Once when Miss Barnes had gone abroad 
upon a holiday and was in London, Alma- 
Tadema told her how the Kaiser had been at 
his house a day or two before. The imperial 
visitor had admired everything he saw in that 
famous studio and dwelling, but, as he left, he 
told the artist that the one thing he envied him 
and would like to carry away was the window 
by La Farge that he possessed. La Farge was 



C38 ^ 

greatly tickled over this, and at the same time 
he wrote to me with glee about a proposal 
then afoot — Dr. Bode wanted to make an 
exhibition of his glass at the Berlin Museum. 
The plan ultimately fell through, but that it 
was thought of pleased La Farge. A creative 
artist of his calibre does not need to be told 
when he has done well, but he was too big 
a man to assume a foolish superiority to the 
generous recognition of his contemporaries. 
He told me how Rossetti, seeing something 
of his at the house of a friend, wrote to him 
over here a handsome message of encourage- 
ment. It was the first thing of the sort in his 
life, he said, and it was really helpful to him. 
A passage in one of his late letters shows how 
this feeling of thankfulness for friendly stimu- 
lus lasted with him through life. " I wish to 
tell you/' he wrote, "that I have a great com- 
plimentary message from Rodin and feel much 
set up." 

He had the fundamental modesty of the 
man of genius, a deep consciousness of how 
far short of his aim every painter, no matter 
how great, has always fallen. A note as of 
noble despair, of fine humility before the mag- 
nitude of the painter's task, creeps into one 



I 39 1 

of his last letters. Writing out of doors he 
says : — 

" I feel in every part of each second that 
Nature is almost too beautiful — all of it, 
every millionth part of it, light and color and 
shapes. . . . Each little or big blade of grass 
in front of me, and there are millions, has its 
shape and its composition. The colors are ex- 
quisite. ... As I lift my eyes from the won- 
derful green (never painted yet by man) I 
see a pale blue sky with pale cumulus clouds, 
white, with violet shadows, and on the other 
side the blue is deep, and, in an hour, shall be 
deeper yet." 

Before visions like that, and his life was 
full of them, he was truly humble, reverent 
before the miracles of nature, and imbued, 
too, with a sense of the sacredness of his call- 
ing. He knew what desperate difficulties lie 
between the painter and the adequate expres- 
sion of even a tithe of what he sees in the end- 
less pageant of earth. But he knew, too, what 
his gifts were, the singleness of his purpose, 
and, above all, the rapture of achievement. 
These and other emotions, analysis of which 
belongs more properly to a later phase of my 
study, confirmed in him that respect for him- 



[ 4 o ] 

self to which I referred at the outset. If a tri- 
umph in his art gave him joy it also made him 
proud. 

Every reader of Landor's life will remem- 
ber the wretched litigation which drove him 
from Bath in his old age and sent him back 
to Florence, where the English minister, Lord 
Normanby, with others, took note of the scan- 
dal and acted accordingly. To the leader of 
his enemies the fiery poet sent a memorable 
rebuke, the sting of which resided in its close : 
" I am not inobservant of distinctions. You 
by the favour of a Minister are Marquis of 
Normanby. I by the grace of God am Walter 
Savage Landor." 

La Farge was like that. 



II 

ANCESTRY AND EARLY 
LIFE 

WHEN La Farge was a young man, 
travelling in Europe, he met at Copen- 
hagen a member of a Danish family of French 
origin, M. Jean de Joncquiere. The ancestors 
of this gentleman had left France in the time 
of Henri Quatre. The family jealously pre- 
served the letters written by that monarch to 
an old soldier of their house, who had fought 
under him, and La Farge's friend, though he 
had never seen the land of his forefathers, pos- 
sessed its language and cherished its memo- 
ries. Aware of the visitor's French blood he 
said to him, " Never forget your descent. It 
is a privilege to have an ideal nationality." 
La Farge remembered. He had, indeed, a 
lively sense of the privilege of carrying French 
blood in his veins. It colored his whole tem- 
perament and undoubtedly determined, in a 
measure, the movement of his mind. I was 
with him once, not long after he had been talk- 
ing with a kinswoman of his, who was fond of 



C 4» 3 

hunting after odd things, who had wondered 
why the name of Abraham was in the family, 
and had asked him if it suggested any Jewish 
ancestors. La Farge was not sure but that it 
did and he mused quizzically on the subject; 
but it interested him only as something very 
remote and vague. That he came of a line of 
Frenchmen was all he really knew or cared to 
know. 

He cared, I think, not only in obedience to 
the instinct of race but because his ancestral 
history touched his imagination. La Farge 
lived by imagination and this fact is my gov- 
erning principle in traversing his life. The 
place of his birth, the houses he lived in, the 
sources of his education, the journeys he made 
— such things as these count in his biography 
only as they bear upon the development of 
his character and the fertilizing of his brilliant 
intellect. The memories that he rescued from 
the past embraced, of course, the simple every- 
day incidents that are common to most chil- 
dren and young men ; but as he looked back 
at his boyhood he could see how the special in- 
fluences at work therein had given a special 
turn to his way of thinking and feeling. Espe- 
cially he recognized the formative effect at 



Sleeping Woman 




'.■fipuifM ty J, 



C43 ] 

that time of associations which, if then but 
half understood, nevertheless enlarged his 
perspective and gave him an obscure con- 
sciousness of contact with exceptional condi- 
tions. Through his father he touched hands 
with participants in the great military colli- 
sions and political upheavals of the late eight- 
eenth and early nineteenth centuries. There 
was romance in the possession of a father 
who had felt the shock of the French Revo- 
lution and had been in peril of his life in 
scenes of tropical adventure. 

It was in 1806 that Jean-Frederic de la 
Farge had come to this country, a lucky refu- 
gee from the massacre in San Domingo. He 
had come to the island as an Ensign in the 
naval expedition which landed General Le- 
clerc to effect the seizure and transportation 
of Toussaint. Young La Farge was wounded 
in the action through which his ship pierced 
the British blockade, but evidently this only 
heightened his spirits, for he presently ex- 
changed his ensignship for a lieutenancy in 
the army and was thenceforth in the thick of 
the turmoil. He was captured by Guerrier on 
one of his expeditions, falling into a trap, 
" very much as it might be in the Philippines 



I 44 ] 

to-day," and did not regain his freedom until, 
on the eve of the massacre, he and two other 
whites succeeded in evading the negroes, and, 
starting in a small boat, ultimately boarded a 
ship bound for Philadelphia. It does not ap- 
pear that he had any thought of returning to 
France and a life of action. Arrived in Amer- 
ica he subsided into civil life, married, and 
prospered. His wife was the daughter of M. 
Binsse de Saint- Victor, who had himself at 
one time been a planter in San Domingo, a 
Frenchman of the old regime, whose family 
name will recur more than once in this narra- 
tive. The elder John La Farge, as I gather he 
called himself in his adopted country, had laid 
down his arms but had lost nothing of his en- 
ergy. While the dramatic passages in his ca- 
reer remained but a memory, flinging their 
atmosphere of hazard and of historic events 
over his family life, he gave himself up to 
business and the making of a fortune. He 
came to own a plantation in Louisiana and 
extensive properties in Jefferson and Lewis 
counties in New York. A village not many 
miles from Watertown still bears his name, 
La Fargeville. In the city of New York he 
acquired considerable real estate, including a 



C *5 3 
hotel and a theatre, Tripler Hall, in which 
his son was later to witness the performances 
of Rachel and to make sketches of the great 
actress. The home of this resourceful, fortu- 
nate Frenchman, closely allied with the lead- 
ers amongst those of his countrymen whom 
political catastrophe had cast upon our shores 
and soon established in the friendliest relations 
with the quiet, old-fashioned society of New 
York, was naturally in the lower part of the 
town, where the dwellers in sedate houses 
preserving an aroma of colonial days regarded 
our present "up-town" as a sort of undiscov- 
ered country. It was in one of these houses, 
at No. 40 Beach Street, that John La Farge 
was born on March 31, 1835. 

The scene of his birth was about mid- way 
between the Battery and Washington Square, 
within easy reach of both places. It lay under 
the shadow of one of our oldest churches, St. 
John's, and the North River was near at hand, 
the shore possessing, of course, a wholesome 
and picturesque character long since obliter- 
ated. Looking tenderly back at his earliest 
surroundings, and reconstructing in his mind's 
eye a peaceful, spacious neighborhood, La 
Farge writes, " We must always remember 



C * 6 1 

that this is Old New York. The charm of St. 
John's park extended to the entire length of 
Beach Street, which lined it on the south. ,, He 
goes on to describe his first conscious vision 
ofit: — 

" I had just come from Jefferson or Lewis 
or any of those counties, where my father had 
country places, and was selling his lands and 
fighting the terrible Joseph Bonaparte for 
damages owing to neglect and waste of tim- 
ber. I had been taken as a treat to Water- 
town. I had seen wooden houses. I came by 
night rides. I arrived in New York and came 
into this street of brick houses, smothered in 
the evening light, a scene of beauty which I 
still have in my mind, and I sat on the steps 
and entered into conversation with a little 
negro boy, David, who was playing the jew's- 
harp, which also was an absolute novelty to 
me. I cannot to this day separate the houses 
and the jew's-harp and my first sight of the 
negro boy. 

" He belonged to my uncle by marriage, 
the Vicomte de la Barre de Nantueil, who 
had just returned from selling his plantations. 
Part of these, if I remember, he had from my 
father, who rather hoped he would establish 



C47 ] 

himself in a country which was sure to bring 
fortune, instead of returning to the narrow 
life of the Norman or Breton gentleman ( for 
he was both) and to a struggle for a political 
end which, of course, was not successful. My 
uncle was a beautiful type of a certain moment 
in France which cannot exist again. ... He 
was not a handsome man but evidently mili- 
tary. . . . He had served in Spain on the pro- 
per side and had with other gentlemen the 
proper grades of service and had put down 
the liberal reaction. He had tried the holding 
of slaves and he hated it. Besides (though he 
cared little for that, on account of his political 
views) holding slaves withdrew the right of 
citizenship from a Frenchman, according to 
French law. Now he was also a very strict 
Catholic and really a very religious man in a 
simple, straightforward way. He had stood 
godfather to the child of one of his slaves. Ac- 
cording to church ideas he was responsible for 
that child, so he brought David along with 
him, with the intention of taking him to Eu- 
rope and looking after him there, where he 
would be free. Our law, of course, did not 
recognize these points ; in New York Davie 
was a slave — and now comes in a touch of 



C 48 3 
serious comedy. The Abolitionists were after 
him, so that he had to be watched day and 
night, and this little nig wanted all the time to 
get out, as it was also his first town. They 
got him off, and then different tribulations fell 
upon my uncle. He had to put that boy into 
school, he even thought of college, but Da- 
vie was sure to fall in love and follow the 
travelling circuses and had to be brought 
back again. Then a trade was forced upon 
him and a little establishment in Paris (for my 
uncle thought it his duty) where he married, 
prettily, a young negro with the prestige of 
singularity and capital being a trouvaille in 
that sort of circle in Paris. And there, in 1 856, 
I had the pleasure of calling upon him at his 
picture framer's shop, which was my small 
duty." 

I must mention here the interesting fact of 
La Farge's clinging all his life to the region in 
which he first saw the light. In his youth the 
household shifted several times but never out- 
side the boundaries of that "Old New York" 
he loved; and though there was a summer 
home at Glen Cove, Long Island, where the 
elder LaFarge died, in 1858, the family life 
centred around the neighborhood of Wash- 



C 49 ] 
ington Square. He would never desert it. He 
took a room in the Tenth Street studio build- 
ing on his return from his first European trav- 
els, and down to the day of his death his vari- 
ous studios were there, with his stained glass 
workshops only a few blocks away, on the 
south side of Washington Square. He lived, 
too, with only very rare and brief departures 
to dwellings further north, within the same 
narrow radius. Clinton Place, Washington 
Place, Ninth Street, Tenth Street, lower Fifth 
Avenue, these were his landmarks for more 
than half a century. In fact, it was impossible 
to think of him as permanently established far 
from the spot where he had begun life as a 
thinking youth. The most distinguished of our 
old streets and our old houses made his natural 
background. Their atmosphere of dignified 
retirement from the sordid rush and pressure 
of a commercial city was his own atmosphere. 
It was, I think, one of the felicitous, most ap- 
propriate chances of his career that enabled 
him to place in the Church of the Ascension, at 
the corner of Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street, 
his finest mural decoration and some of the 
best of his windows. Fate was kind thus to per- 
mit him to enshrine his memory at the one 



C5o J 

point in his native city with which his daily ac- 
tivities were so closely associated. 

But we must rejoin him on the threshold. 
He was born, as I have shown, into a family of 
historic and romantic memories ; but we take 
leave for a moment of "battles long ago " and 
their sinister rumble, and turn, rather, to some 
domestic pictures of a reposeful simplicity. He 
could clearly recollect his grandfather, Binsse 
de Saint- Victor. 

"He happened to have somewhat of an 
artistic temperament," wrote La Farge; "it 
was in the family ; and he was as gentle and 
amiable as his more celebrated brother, the 
father of Paul de Saint-Victor, was not. My 
grandfather took to painting miniatures and 
giving drawing lessons and learned his art as 
he went along. I dare say some of his minia- 
tures may still exist. On a small scale he was 
an exquisite painter. He was also a good 
teacher and started me at six years old in 
the traditions of the eighteenth century. My 
grandmother, having married him, began a 
school for young ladies." 

Old Madame Binsse de Saint- Victor was, 
one infers, a somewhat formidable but very 
winning woman, whom La Farge recalled with 



C 51 ] 
warm affection. Of her he draws this vivid 
sketch : — 

"My grandmother's school became ex- 
tremely successful, her pupils being chosen 
from among the aristocracy of New York, and 
there I had the pleasure of falling in love for 
the first time with Miss J., who at the age of 
eighty sent me a few years ago her remem- 
brances of that time. Besides the emotions of 
love I had the advantage of knowing the emo- 
tions of jealousy, which are also an education. 
When she was taken away and I felt that I 
could no more see her put up her back hair, I 
thought life had ended for me. I used occa- 
sionally to go to my grandmother's and fol- 
low some of the lessons. I was always severely 
held up on French and I still have good eigh- 
teenth-century French as one of my posses- 
sions. 

"My grandmother was very handsome, 
with momentarily a somewhat severe expres- 
sion, before which, I am sure, everybody bent. 
Her ideas were of the eighteenth century and 
somewhat opposed to the habits of the country. 
Her occasional severity did not prevent my 
grandmother from being both witty and liber- 
ally forgiving in the way of literature. I re- 



member, for instance, that she would discuss 
La Fontaine and Boccaccio with my father 
with full comprehension and great breadth of 
view. She was not exactly pious but very re- 
ligious, despising all meannesses and details of 
worship but holding fast to the essentials of 
belief." 

All of La Farge's home influences bore in 
one way or another upon the fostering of 
moral principle but it amused him to recall the 
very different lines along which these influ- 
ences were exerted. The central government, 
so to say, was strict, but it was in no wise rigid 
in any bigoted sense. Side by side with the 
ever-present law of the Roman Church there 
were other kinds of admonition, though all 
tended in the one salutary direction. Here are 
some further glimpses of the spiritual elements 
in his father's house: — 

"At home I was not severely but strictly 
trained in good English and fairly good be- 
havior by an English governess who was 
< High-Church/ the very highest of that early 
date, who made me understand some details 
of Anglican tradition. That was all very beau- 
tiful. Also, I had a little German influence. In 
fact, my first prayer was < Vater unser,' taught 



C*0 
me by my Alsatian nurse, who was brought 
from the many Alsatians in my father's colony 
in northern New York, for always, to his dy- 
ing day, he had some form of Alsatian inherit- 
ance. I feel the advantage to this day of these 
widely differing influences. My nurse's views 
of religion and history were quite barbarous, 
even to my childish knowledge, and I enjoyed 
with a satirical pleasure her statements as to 
the ignoble way in which Martin Luther and 
his wife had been treated by the Pope at some 
festival of food in common. Then she melted 
out of my life." 

Meanwhile, the retired soldier, who had 
brought from his native Charente a certain 
keen and rationalizing temperament, and had 
learned in his European battles under Napo- 
leon, as well as in his bitter experience at San 
Domingo, to deal with life with a kind of imagi- 
native practicality, played a notably steady- 
ing part in the training of his sensitive son. I 
gather that La Farge's mystic vein, which he 
never lost, was overlaid with sterner stuff 
through his father's teaching, that the latter 
drove at conduct, inculcating just the tangible 
convictions needed to enrich and organize an 
essentially religious nature. The tonic influ- 



C 54 ^ 
ence of the elder La Farge's way of dealing 
with the lad is charmingly illustrated in this 
recollection : — 

« My father explained to me what right and 
wrong was, according to his moral views, 
which were extremely simple but very severe. 
Nothing was more awful to him than lying or 
equivocation. Several times I fell into the trap 
of doing wrong, and one occasion, small as it 
is, I think I shall register. We used to go to- 
gether to see various French people down 
town, and among others was a gentleman who 
imported things from China. I knew that they 
were not like our own Sevres, and one day I 
saw some little image and put it in my pocket 
and by the time I got home I w r as in despair. 
I had done a thing which was very bad, out 
of mere want of thought. As soon as we got 
home I told my father, thinking the world 
would end then and there, but it did not." 

He recalled other childish peccadilloes, as, 
for example, writing an ambiguous letter ex- 
cusing another boy for lateness at school, but 
in his father's opinion he had not been so much 
wrong as weak in the commission of this crime. 
" I think I was a good boy," he says, and again 
he describes himself as "very innocent." He 



C55 3 

and his little comrades frolicked in the streets, 
peppering with pea-shooters the pigs wander- 
ing there, "and we said awful words which 
we thought was swearing, the wickedness of 
which we none of us very well understood/ ' 
I connect with these remote reminiscences a 
conversation we had in the last year of his life 
on questions of good and evil. There was a 
wonderful gentleness in La Farge and though 
he had gone through many a sharp passage 
with contemporaries of his, and, like every man 
offeree and character, had had his enemies, he 
could not feel in retrospect that he had ever 
cherished injurious motives, that he had ever 
had any predisposition toward wrong-doing. 
It never occurred to him to see himself in the 
role of "a plaster saint" but he knew that, on 
the whole, he had been true to the spirit of 
that far-away time in which the staunch French 
moralists who brought him up had fixed him 
in their faith. 

"I suppose I went to school," he says in 
his early recollections, but then he goes on 
to speak of his reading as enjoyed under his 
father's direction. His mentor "in a gentle 
way, was firm and resolute," and he was glad, 
besides, "to learn something of the innumer- 



156-2 

able pretty facts which mitigate the dryness 
of geography and arithmetic, which I hated, 
and which my grandfather insisted upon/' It 
was a household of exact thinking and strong 
literary interests and evidently the boy had no 
sooner learned his letters than he was encour- 
aged to give himself to books. He speaks of 
no nursery favorites. If he had them they were 
abandoned at a precocious date. When he be- 
gan to browse on veritable books he was given 
sufficiently substantial fare, as witness this ac- 
count : — 

"On my sixth birthday I was presented 
with a bookcase and a library and I sat down 
to read ' Robinson Crusoe,' in a big illustrated 
Harper edition with drawings by Grandville. 
I never reread it until five years ago, at New- 
port, and the marvellous truthfulness of this 
made-up narrative was forced upon me by my 
own long life. In my library I had Voltaire's 
'Life of Charles the Twelfth,' the 'Lettres a 
Emilie/ 'Paul et Virginie,' 'Tel^maque,' the 
'Discours sur PHistoire Universelle' of Bos- 
suet, and Homer in a French translation, I 
forget whose, but it was more enchanting than 
'Robinson Crusoe.' Also the 'Swiss Family 
Robinson ' gave me notions of geography and 



Wild Roses and Water Lily 



C 57 3 

natural history which I felt to be quite inade- 
quate but very charming. 

"On the other side the family bookcases 
were filled with the complete works of Vol- 
taire and other long rows of eighteenth-cen- 
tury writers ; there were the proper books of 
a French library, such as Moliere, Corneille, 
and Racine, and then came the nineteenth cen- 
tury men, Paul Louis Courier, political and 
literary writers previous to 1830, and also 
all the military literature of that period. There 
were the proper English books of all the good 
men, and one beautiful copy of Byron, with 
the wonderful copperplates by Turner. On 
my father's table lay the New Testament 
in French, handsomely bound, with some pic- 
tures, into which he dipped from time to time. 
... Of course in my father's library there was 
a beautiful set of Balzac, with the famous illus- 
trations of Tony Johannot, 'Don Quixote/ and 
ever so many contemporary engravings of 
the Napoleonic period; Napoleon with the 
King of Rome on his knee, the Empress Jo- 
sephine, etc. Where, oh where, has gone the 
big lithographic portrait, nicely framed, of 
Henry the Fifth of France, which hung over 
my little bed, and for whom I had to say a 



C 58 ] 
prayer every night and morning to please my 
grandmother, who hoped I should one day help 
the cause ! My father, who held exactly oppo- 
site opinions, would smile amiably, and some- 
times said things which I did not understand. 
Our whole family arrangements, intellectu- 
ally, met every turn of politics, and my father 
had seen so much and knew the reverse of so 
many pages that it was easy for him to under- 
stand human variability." 

La Farge himself, as I have previously in- 
dicated, was to share this comprehensive and 
sympathetic outlook of his father's. In talk 
about the history of his time little intimate 
touches were constantly cropping out. Events 
had faintly brushed him as they passed and 
with others, dating from before his birth, he 
had been made familiar not through books 
alone. So clairvoyant a creature was certain to 
receive clear and lasting impressions amongst 
the actors in old dramas, rehearsing their ex- 
ploits, even though, as he remarks in the fore- 
going passage, they said things which he did 
not understand. His imagination would re- 
spond, though he had not yet obtained the 
knowledge necessary to the coordination of all 
that he heard. From my earliest acquaintance 



C 59 ] 
with his memories of life under his father's 
roof and the talk to which he then listened I 
had always felt in him a curious magnetism, 
the curious power to enthrall, which belongs 
to the man who is in his proper person a link 
with the historic past. Long after he had given 
me, in a general way, this conviction of his 
closeness to a vanished epoch and its heroes, 
he sent me a letter containing a story which he 
wished to have put in his biography. It illus- 
trates in a very concrete form the stimulus he 
drew from contact with his father's old friends. 
Describing it as an incident in his early life, 
"before I was twenty, or rather lasting up to 
that through boyhood," he thus recites the 
anecdote: — 

"Our home had certain visitors who were 
more distinctly private friends. One of them is 
famous. Of course you have read Silvio Pel- 
lico, at least the «Mie Prigioni.' Well, do you 
remember his companion, Maroncelli, in that 
awful dungeon of Spielburg, where they were 
ten years, 1822 to 1832, underground, in a 
small stone cell? Then the one-hundred-pound 
chain began to mortify this good poet's leg and 
they had to cut it off, and the indignant cry of 
Europe got even as far as the German mind 



and they were let out. Well, this one-legged 
man was a frequenter of our house, for my 
father, who was and had been more or less of 
a Carbonaro, liked him and they talked the 
politics more or less of the day, as far as Italy 
and its connections at least. And these were 
great, of course; Bonaparte and England, and 
Austria and Mazzini, and doubts about the 
justification of assassination, and the romance 
of Free Italy. But that also, as I remember, 
was wisely kept within some practical result. 
Every day the pressure on Europe was in- 
creasing; Napoleon III. was coming in and the 
boy, me, learned quite as much as the books 
and memoirs give to-day ( from certain angles, 
of course). We did not know of Prussia, of 
course, yet. Prussia was to come in only with 
185 6-7-8 , and our friends did not know — nor 
did Consul C. Lever, as you will remember, 
who wished to help Germany and Prussia in 
the interest of England ! ! ! Read his journal, 
etc. I mean the novelist. To return to the good 
gray Poet. My memory of him tells me he 
was kind to his cruel tormentors and half mur- 
derers. He understood them; he understood 
the natural history of the gaoler, and would 
relate kindly the little cruelties inflicted in the 



C 61 1 
small cell — underground and damp, stone 
wall, stone bench, nothing else — but even 
there the natural malignity of man found some 
way of expression/' 

In all that we have seen thus far of his child- 
hood and youth we can trace forces working 
upon his moral nature, shaping his mind, giv- 
ing an impetus to his curiosity about men and 
things, and incessantly feeding his imagina- 
tion. There remains the appeal to his aesthetic 
instinct, the germination in him of the artist's 
passion. But it is important to note that there 
are none of the conventional stories to tell 
about a vocation proclaimed in infancy and 
persisted in against the obtuseness of unsym- 
pathetic elders. As a matter of fact, and as we 
shall see in detail later, it was to take LaFarge 
a long time to find out that he was meant to be 
a painter and cared to be one. Where he had 
extraordinary good fortune was in breathing 
throughout his young impressionable years 
precisely the atmosphere needed to lay in his 
character a ground-work of good taste and to 
familiarize him with art without professional- 
izing it for him. He was in a position to take 
art as a matter of course, the best way in the 
world in which an artist can take it when he is 



C 6 2 3 

young. The very envelope of his daily life was 
calculated to have some disciplinary and fruit- 
ful effect upon his ideas. " Our house was really 
very elegant," he says," and suited my father, 
who had seen and lived in the proper kind of 
environment in Paris. The Napoleonic splen- 
dor had affected him without his knowing it, 
and most of our furniture was Empire." There 
was his grandfather Binsse de Saint- Victor, 
« painting miniatures and giving drawing 
lessons." The invitation of these conditions, 
coupled with the talk always going on around 
him, could not be withstood by the clever boy, 
even though the choice of the artistic career 
lay still very far in the distance before him. 
Everything conspired to prepare him for the 
path he was ultimately to follow. And it was 
characteristic of his good genius, considering 
his natural bent toward a wide, historic view 
of art, that it launched him under old-world 
auspices, so to say, starting him with sound 
anchors of judgment to windward. 

Several years ago, in the summer of 1906, 
I had been asking him some questions about 
his work, and, when his health permitted, he 
set about answering them. Late that Fall he 
sent me from Newport a rich sheaf of mem- 



[63 3 
ories, saying, " To note my beginnings in the 
art of painting is a manner of writing an auto- 
biography; and this I feel inclined to. It may 
also serve to make correct the development 
of my work, which is interesting to myself, at 
least, and of course connects with the general 
story of painting during the latter half of the 
last century. It has been my fortune, whether 
good or bad, — for nobody knows what the 
real fortune is — it has been my fortune to 
understand pretty well the direction, some of 
the methods, the prejudices, the dislikes, the 
admirations, of the schools of painting, espe- 
cially of the French, a great deal over a cen- 
tury." The story of his experience, as he gave 
it to me, goes back to those first years over 
which we have already glanced : — 

« The influences which I felt as a little boy 
were those of the paintings and works of art 
that surrounded me at home. Some reached 
further back than the early Napoleonic pe- 
riod, the beginning of the nineteenth century. 
There were on the walls a sea piece by Ver- 
net; some imitation historical story, that of 
Daniel, charming, however, in color, by Le- 
moyne ; two great battle scenes, now ascribed 
to Salvator ; a large painting of Noah and his 



C 6 
sons, ascribed to Sebastiano del Piombo ; some, 
indeed many, Dutch paintings of various au- 
thors and excellence, among them a beautiful 
Solomon Ruysdael which I yet see occasion- 
ally. All this and the very furniture and hang- 
ings of the Empire parlor did not belong to the 
Victorian epoch in which I was growing up. 

"It so happened that my very first teach- 
ings were those of the eighteenth century and 
my training has covered almost a century and 
a half. 

"I was just six years old and I had wished 
to learn to draw and paint for whatever was to 
come of it, a mere boy's wish. My father took 
me to my grandfather, the father of my mother, 
who had for some time been a painter, espe- 
cially of miniatures, and not a bad one. I never 
knew exactly how he came by his training. I 
was too young to talk of such things ; for as 
long as we are young, things merely happen ; 
they don't come by any sequence. My grand- 
father had been obliged to do something for 
himself, on coming to the United States, with 
wife and children, and his escape from San 
Domingo and the ruin of his plantation and 
wealth, for his plantation was one of the larg- 
est in the islands or on the mainland. He had 



C65 3 

at that time, the end of our Revolution, re- 
ceived Admiral Rochambeau as a guest, and 
my uncle, his eldest son, was named after the 
Admiral. My grandfather had fled, like many 
others, and was a ruined man. His slaves, of 
course, were free and his plantation destroyed 
and his mansion and all about it turned into a 
wilderness. His fate was not solitary in that 
moment of the world. . . . This has nothing to 
do with my artistic education. I remember my 
grandfather expressing a dislike to the insti- 
tution of slavery. This came about through 
something he said, which I vaguely remem- 
ber, of his having gone to the coast of Africa 
as a youngster, to get slaves ; where he saw, 
of course, some of the horrors of what was to 
be the basis of his fortune. 

"The old gentleman had fallen back on 
this accomplishment and upon his general 
reading, and he taught and painted and did 
what was the evident thing, to use what had 
been ornament for a basis of living. I ought to 
add, however, that his studies had been seri- 
ous enough to give him also a certain know- 
ledge of architecture, so that he made de- 
signs for, and saw to the carrying out, of the 
old French church in Canal street, which 



was really a building of a good deal of char- 
acter. 

"To him, therefore, I came to get my first 
lessons of art, which were sadly prosaic and 
which would have driven me away if it had 
not been that my father insisted upon my car- 
rying out anything that I had proposed to do. 
The teaching was as mechanical as it could be, 
and was rightly based upon the notion that a 
boy ought to be taught so as to know his trade. 
There was not the slightest alleviation and no 
suggestion of this being 'art/ After having 
learned thoroughly how to sharpen crayon, 
how to fasten paper, how to cover large 
surfaces with parallel lines so as to make a 
tint, I was gradually allowed to begin to copy 
things that represented something. I was 
given engravings to copy, which engravings 
were made on purpose to imitate the touch of 
the crayon. These were of older make than 
the lithograph, then only recently invented. 

"Gradually the work became more inter- 
esting, and by the time I was eight years old 
I could begin to do something that had a cer- 
tain amount of careful resemblance to an ori- 
ginal. I still have some of these very early 
pieces of work. Then came more liberty and 



[67 ] 

I copied right and left, beginning even to paint 
in water color a little by myself. And the 
boy's little studies from nature have some 
amount of something, both in drawing and 
color. 

" Of course, by the time that I was eight or 
ten the books of the house began to be un- 
folded to me, and the more modern works of 
that day, the forties, as shown in books, inter- 
ested me very much. Already I was begin- 
ning to think that the samplers of my grand- 
father were rather stupid, which was what 
they were meant to be. Then came school, 
of course, and no more natural study of any- 
thing and even a hatred of the miserable 
teachings of the drawing master. Drawings 
of course were made to amuse the other boys 
or to kill time in the dreary hours that used to 
be the fate of the schoolboy at that time. 

"Then, for a little while, broke a slight 
opening into the blue by my finding an Eng- 
lish water color painter, who gave me thor- 
oughly English lessons. At that time I was in 
the Grammar School of Columbia, which was 
very near to my teacher's rooms, so that I 
followed easily a discipline which would have 
been irksome with less chance of lounging. 



C 68 ] 

But all this was absolutely inartistic at bottom, 
on my part, and nothing but the fancy of a 
youngster for something else than his usual 
occupation. Then came college, a still greater 
extinguisher of art, at least in the way of the 
use of the eye and hand. 1 

"Contrariwise, my professor in English 
took me suddenly into the literary and histori- 
cal side of art. He was an Oxford man, had 
joined in the Oxford Movement, had become 
a Catholic with Newman and the others, and 
then a Catholic priest, further than which he 
could not go. We are talking of a date a few 
years after Newman's decision. Mr. Ruskin 
was beginning about this moment, 1851, per- 
haps, and his writings were a source of pleas- 
ure and instruction — I mean teaching — to my 
friendly professor. I was made or allowed 
to read anything which would bring up the 
beauty of the mediaeval ideal, and even out- 
of-the-way knowledge was shown me, so that 
at this date I was already far away from the 

1 La Farge obtained his scholastic education from more 
than one source. Columbia, St. John's College at Fordham, 
and Mt. St. Mary's College at Emmitsburg, Maryland, all 
had a share in it. It was from Mt. St. Mary's that he was 
graduated, in 1853. 



C69] 

eighteenth century and was being taught how 
wrong all sorts of things in art were which did 
not agree with the mediaeval. But all this was 
literature and history and archaeology at bot- 
tom, rather than the study of art. 

" Still, under such influences there was 
probably encouraged some more studious feel- 
ing. Perhaps the sight of some engravings of 
Albert Durer may have done something. But 
you must remember that at this time the pho- 
tograph was onlyjust beginning to be invented 
and really accurate copies of anything not in 
the fashion of the day were unknown. We do 
not realize sufficiently the enormous change 
of the early middle of this century in giving us, 
for the first time, a sense of responsibility in 
the copying of works of art of the past. The 
lithographs were beginning to help in that way 
and in a few years the photograph was to 
change the entire question. What one would 
have given at that time for a photograph from 
an old master such as we have by thousands 
every day, can hardly be guessed at. I re- 
member how some years afterward M. Charles 
Blanc, Director of Fine Arts for France, sent 
me the first photograph taken from a fresco. 
Great treat, a wonderful success, etc. 



1 70 1 

" I was intending to state that to my great 
surprise to-day, the few serious drawings made 
by me at that date, in the very early fifties, 
are occasionally sufficiently good to look more 
respectable to me to-day than they did then, 
for I attach no importance to them except as 
study. But they were largely based on line 
and construction which, of course, gives a basis 
of seriousness. 

" After college there was again a moment 
of a little interest in painting, because a French 
artist was an acquaintance of some French 
friends and needed lessons, so that several of 
us took some and I got into this distinct rela- 
tion to the art of painting. Then came the ac- 
quaintance with pictures that were just show- 
ing their faces in this country, the French 
school of 1830. I remember the delight of 
buying a Diaz and a Troy on and a Barye for a 
few dollars that I had intended for books in- 
stead. The lithographs from these men be- 
ginning to be famous in Europe came into our 
market and affected many of us. Mr. Wins- 
low Homer, whom I did not know until later, 
was a student of these things and has, like 
myself, been largely made by them. 

"I knew few or no American painters, 



C 71 3 
though I was brought suddenly into the ac- 
quaintance of George Inness, who was begin- 
ning to turn from the American method, that 
I scarcely knew about, to the French. This 
was helped by my teacher, who had made 
his acquaintance and who was anxious to in- 
fluence various of my acquaintances as buyers 
for the artist whose change of method, like 
the change of method of Mr. Homer Martin 
later, might involve him in that depreciation 
which artists have to risk in such cases. There 
is nothing the public detests more than a 
change in the manner of doing anything. We 
associate the man with his work to such an ex- 
tent as to forget that, like everyone else, he 
may follow some path to suit himself. 

"This acquaintance had very little influ- 
ence upon me, because there were few chances 
of seeing our artist in his studio at his work, 
and my teacher, notwithstanding his admira- 
tion, was a person on a very small scale of 
capacity; the usual teacher that we know. 1 
But the names he used became more and more 
familiar, especially as they were known to me 
through the literature which I was then ab- 
sorbing. 

1 Note of 1910: " This is unjust. He became better." 



C 72 ] 
" De Musset, Heine, and Balzac I had read 
every word of, as well as the greater part of 
the current writers of the day in France, and, 
of course, the Ruskinian explanation, con- 
nected with Turner, was a large factor in my 
training and my amusement. Acquaintances 
of mine, I should say friends, here in New 
York, had personally known these famous 
French writers. A few years later I was to 
meet some of the men of whom I had read or 
whose work I knew, though Balzac was to die 
in '51, and I was too late, in '56, on coming to 
Paris, to know more of Heine than that he had 
just died. Some of my new acquaintances and 
friends could tell me some few things more 
concerning the mysterious being who affected 
us all from his bed of pain and misery. All 
this literature is in absolute order with the in- 
fluences of painting, for in France and in Eng- 
land the romantic leaven acted both in litera- 
ture and in the other arts, even in the art of 



music." 



The natural upshot of all this fermentation 
was a departure for Europe. With his horizon 
rapidly expanding it was inevitable that La 
Farge's gaze should turn abroad. He had the 
" seeing eye" and he was eager for new sen- 



113 3 
sations. Again, however, we must remember 
that he still had no intention of adopting 
art as his profession. The spirit in which he 
started upon his travels is exactly defined in 
this fragment: "In the early part of 1856, 
April, I think, or March, I went to Europe, 
having already passed some little while in a 
lawyer's office — enough to make me doubt 
whether my calling lay in that direction, but 
the American habit, at least in these days, 
tended to place any doubtful mind into some 
such training or place of rest. Europe was to 
be a manner of amusement, and, for me, of 
taking up also some family connections. " He 
embarked, by the way, in a famous old ship, 
"The Fulton/' the then new side-wheeler 
about which everybody was talking. His 
father going with him one day, to look it over, 
told him that he had sailed the Hudson on 
the second trip of Fulton's boat. La Farge's 
objective point was, of course, Paris. His 
kinsfolk were there, the Saint- Victors, and, 
equally of course, as it seems to me when 
I consider on what a favorable stream his 
destiny was borne, they were the very friends 
to initiate him into his Europe. 



Ill 

EUROPE 

IN Nadar's portrait-charge of Paul de Saint- 
Victor the celebrated man of letters car- 
ries himself in an attitude of superb aplomb, 
and with one hand nonchalantly sets off in- 
numerable fireworks. Where are those fire- 
works now? Perhaps there are still readers 
who turn in leisurely browsings to his 
"Hommes et Dieux" or his "Femmes de 
Goethe," but as a literary personage the au- 
thor of those once popular books, and of count- 
less fugitive criticisms, long since ceased to 
rank amongst the salient figures in French 
prose. At the time of La Farge's first visit to 
Paris, to realize a cousinship which had always 
been kept alive by intimate communications 
between the two families, Saint- Victor, then 
in his thirties, was already a writer of some 
experience, and, in fact, was rising to the 
crest of the wave. He had been the secretary 
of Lamartine, but had turned journalist, and 
La Farge found him contributing articles on 



The Three Kings 



[ 75 : 

literature, art, and the theatre to half a dozen 
papers. Some years afterwards, to be exact, 
in 1870, he was to be appointed Inspector of 
Fine Arts and to take on the traits of maturity 
fitting in a governmental functionary, but in 
the 'fifties he was still young and exceedingly 
debonair, the true type of the boulevardier and 
feuilletoniste. 

You hear a good deal about him in the 
" Journal' ' of the Goncourts, who report his 
vehement conversation, saturated in classical 
lore, but, for that matter, in the literature of 
all ages, and vitalized by an inexhaustible en- 
thusiasm. They describe him in his own little 
salon, surrounded by facsimiles of the draw- 
ings of Raphael and other great Italian mas- 
ters, and looking, himself, in a kind of radiant 
disorder, as handsome as an Ephebus of the 
Renaissance. They draw even more telling 
vignettes of their friend moving, to the man- 
ner born, through the glittering panorama of 
that amazing monde of Paris in which the 
ordinary aspects of a man's private life are 
pushed aside and almost obliterated by larger 
interests. Even the personal concerns of the 
successful litterateur of that day were part of 
the public spectacle. We see Saint- Victor at 



I 76 3 
the Porte-Saint-Martin, looking on with a pro- 
prietary interest — and to the huge edification 
of scores of those who were in the secret — at 
the performance of Lia Felix, Rachel's sister, 
in a piece by Mocquard. As the Goncourts 
say, "La pi£ce n'est pas sur le theatre, elle 
est dans la salle. L'intrigue et le drame, c'est 
la declaration officielle des amours de Saint- 
Victor et de Tactrice en scfene." All eyes were 
directed upon the marble face of the critic — 
when they were not turned toward the Ari- 
adne he had abandoned, half hidden in one of 
the balconies behind an immense black fan. 
Talking about Rachel one night, La Farge 
showed me three little photographs of Lia, 
which had just come to light in some old bu- 
reau, and mused on the scenes they revived. 
He recalled the "family row" caused in Paris 
over the question of "recognizing" Lia's 
daughter and Paul's. Some of the kinsfolk did 
not like it. But ultimately Saint- Victor left his 
child all his money, a fact which I note as sig- 
nificant of his close identification with the ro- 
mantic world in which he lived. 

It was a feverish world, packed with work 
of an exciting sort, the work of the brain, 
dedicated wholly to ideals of art, and crowded 



Ill-} 

with brilliant personalities, all of whom were 
Saint- Victor's comrades. Gautier, Gavarni, 
Mario Uchard, About, Baudelaire, Flaubert, 
Sainte-Beuve, were all of the company, for- 
ever doing great things and forever talking 
about them at dinners, in the corridors of the- 
atres, and at their favorite cafes. The con- 
versation in Saint- Victor's circle took a wide 
range. It soared to heights and not seldom it 
was bowled as low as to the fiends. But what- 
ever the issue these contestants in paradox 
had gusto, ardor, a generous and enkindling 
feeling for everything that led, or so much as 
promised to lead, to a new thought, a new 
emotion. It was a time of magnificent affir- 
mations and Saint-Victor, letting himself go 
when a thing excited his appreciation, never 
erred on the side of understatement. Grant 
Duff, in his diary, speaks of going with Renan 
to visit Victor Hugo. " I found the old gentle- 
man surrounded by his court," he says, and 
Saint- Victor was amongst the acolytes. Loy- 
alty to a romantic chief was characteristic of 
him and a passage from his writings on Vic- 
tor Hugo will give a good taste of his critical 
quality. In his essay on "La Legende des 
Stecles " he says : — 



C 78 ] 

"In order to revive this buried world, the 
poet made for himself a new style, a tongue 
with a hundred chords, — Biblical, and Dan- 
tesque, feudal and popular, haughty and sin- 
cere, brilliant in tone, loaded with reliefs, 
streaked with the colors of life and the shift- 
ing shadows of dreamland, equally fit to paint 
a rose in bloom between the fingers of a child 
and a drunken carouse of brutes seated on a 
litter of corpses, to sing the De Profundis of a 
sphinx or the rollicking ballad of a band of sea 
adventurers. Since Dante and Shakespeare, no 
literature has produced its equal." 

His friends praised his style and he is re- 
membered for that, if for nothing else. To- 
day it seems perhaps a little florid, unduly 
charged with romantic fervor. And even in 
his own time he had his critics. Edouard Gre- 
nier records a suggestive saying of Lamartine. 
"As for Saint- Victor, he declared that you 
could not read his works without blue spec- 
tacles." 

I do not believe that La Farge put them on. 
He was twenty-one and keen upon the fray. 
If anything had been needed to make it rose- 
colored for him it was just his reception into 
a group of people whose way of life, at some 



C 79 3 
points at least, coincided with that which he 
had left behind him. The strangeness of Eu- 
rope was instantly modified, if not completely- 
dissipated, by a consciousness of his being 
merely in another home. He told me that he 
had often regretted not asking more questions 
in those days, though asking questions was 
one of his foibles. " I was too young," he 
said, " too young and light-headed and happy." 
Once more I must recur to his imagination, 
wax to receive and marble to retain impres- 
sions little by little deepening that insight of 
his into human problems which was one of 
the great resources of his life. His father had 
accustomed him to an atmosphere full of the 
meaning of history and in Paris he drew 
nearer to the Napoleonic drama. This and his 
quick apprehension of character made him a 
delighted frequenter not only of the Bohemia 
in which his cousin moved but of his grand- 
uncle's salon, where memories of an heroic 
past were still fresh and bleeding. 

Paul de Saint- Victor, like his American 
relative, had a notable parent, an old lion of a 
man who "had lived a violent life in the time 
of the Revolution." He had translated Ana- 
creon and had artistic predilections, but these 



C8o] 
elements of a delicate charm were subordi- 
nate to the sterner appeal that he made. "He 
had seen every execution except that of the 
Queen, and he crossed Charlotte Corday as 
she came down the steps of Marat's house, 
into which he was going to see his publisher, 
who lived in the same building. It may be 
that my granduncle, who at that time was po- 
litically a very religious agent for the throne 
and the crown, only later to fall under de 
Maistre's guidance, was going upstairs to see 
about some of his lighter works, which, I do 
not know. A certain fondness for the stage 
and its ladies brought him later, in 1805, 
against Stendhal in the person of a Mile. 

, who preferred Saint- Victor." The lady 

was Melanie Guilbert, an actress who figures 
at length both in the " Journal' ' of Stendhal 
and in his << Correspondance." In the former 
the jealous lover scornfully dubs his rival a 
poetaster but it is plain that Saint- Victor 
caused him endless worry. One can imagine 
with what breathless attention La Farge drank 
in the reminiscences of this veteran, in the in- 
tervals of exploring Parisian society with the 
young leaders in art and letters. 

As he looked back in after days upon the 



Noli Me Tangere 



C 81 ] 

European opportunities of his youth he was 
wont to regret, as I have just indicated, that 
he had not taken better advantage of them. 
But he knew that those old encounters had 
not been wasted upon him and he gives them 
their full value in the narrative of his artistic 
education, which we here resume : 

"My granduncle, whose house I used to 
frequent in Paris, had been a writer upon art, 
a collector of fine paintings, and acquainted 
with many famous artists of his prime. He 
had also known most of the literary men who 
could have come within his chances. . . . My 
granduncle had also a further spread to his in- 
terests and consequent connections ; he had 
been a fervent Royalist, engaged in all sorts 
of difficulties during the Revolutionary and 
Napoleonic periods. Like many others he had 
become a strong churchman and in his forced 
exile in Russia had known the great type of 
his efforts in that way, the famous de Maistre. 
So art and literature were there at my hand, 
in rather an ancient form, but with the charm 
of the past, the eighteenth century and the 
wonderful beginning of the nineteenth. 

" Occasionally men like my granduncle 
were troubled because their friends of reli- 



gious literary views, even Royalists besides, 
were beginning to uncover more and more 
the merits of the mediaeval painters and the 
glories of mediaeval art. For the younger 
men as typified in England by Mr. Ruskin 
and some earlier ones all this was natural 
enough, but in France the conservative feel- 
ing was shocked by the new admirations 
which had not belonged to their early days 
and which often gathered strength from their 
own principles of philosophy and religion. 
We do not realize to-day the contradictory 
currents which must have tortured the high 
thinking people of the end of the middle of 
the last century. 

"To me, of course, this was a delightful 
source of pleasure. To have my granduncle 
refer to David and Gu£rin as the normal stu- 
dents, though without depreciating the merits 
of the less severe artists of the eighteenth 
century; to have him speak of Ingres, then 
almost at the height of his power, as a person 
a little too much tinged with sentiment, as a 
master not sufficiently strict, was allowing me 
to enter into the minds of my predecessors as 
far back as his own reached, and in all my 
thinking since then, I have valued beyond 



C 83 ] 
everything this knowledge of the manner of 
looking at things of a generation so far back. 
I feel as if I had lived, myself, back this hun- 
dred years or more, in the minds of these few 
people who kept up for my youth this training 
and these sentiments of an earlier day. 

"Contrariwise, and most curiously, my 
granduncle's son, my cousin, Paul de Saint- 
Victor, was a brilliant, fashionable, successful 
writer upon art of all kinds, from the theatre, 
through all literature, to painting and to draw- 
ing, and his criticisms were all important then. 
Even to-day they have a certain merit, though, 
like all momentary writings, some of their 
best value has passed. Quite in opposition to 
the views of his father, my cousin stood by 
and defended the new men, more or less; at 
any rate those especially of whom my grand- 
uncle was, if I may say so, afraid. As you 
know, perhaps, through writings of that day 
and this, my cousin was intimate with some 
of the best-known writers, as, for instance, 
Gautier, so that all these names, and occa- 
sionally themselves, came up to explain and 
interest one in the art and the literature that 
was passing away and in that which was com- 
ing up. 



C 84 3 
"I was taken to see the remarkable work 
of a promising young artist, called G£rome. I 
heard rumors of almost all, except one of 
whom I was to learn a great deal later ; that 
was Millet, whose name never came up. But 
of course there was a constant war and great 
abyss between the two ends of French art, 
that represented by M. Ingres or M. Gerome, 
and that of my friends the painters of twenty 
years before. In one place, however, there 
was an attempt at bringing these extremities 
together. That was at the house of Chass6riau, 
the artist who was to die that very year (if I 
remember), but who was apparently at that 
time a healthy man, doing a great deal already 
* classed/ as the French call it, so that what- 
ever he thought was of importance. You know 
him either well or not at all or very little, be- 
cause he has left so little. But if you remem- 
ber him you will remember those beautiful 
portraits of his sisters, which made one of the 
marked paintings in the Centennial Exposition 
of the great Paris show in 1900. They are 
finer than the semi- classical painting of the 
Tepidarium, which is far from having to-day 
the importance which it had when I was there. 
What he was doing then has been, I suppose, 



C 8 3 3 
almost destroyed in the disasters of the Com- 
mune. I say almost, because a few years ago 
there were remains. Those are the paintings 
decorating what is called, or used to be called, 
the Cour des Comptes. 

" These paintings are to me of extraor- 
dinary importance as reconciling the schools 
which he valued and as making the future of 
a person at that time quite unknown, and, in 
fact, not yet a character in art; that is Puvis 
de Chavannes, who succeeded to a great deal 
of Chasseriau's ideas and training and in fact, 
to more than that, to the drawings and studies 
and the personal friendships of this man whom 
I used to go and see. Another person who I 
think was influenced by him was Moreau. I 
mean the man whose museum of paintings 
has been lately opened to all, while so much 
of his work remained a closed book even to 
many art lovers. 

"At Chasseriau's the war raged all the 
time. At once one was asked what one held 
in regard to M. Ingres or M. Delacroix, for 
the head of the house had been a favorite pupil 
of Ingres, a promise of the right academic fu- 
ture, and then had been converted suddenly, 
like Paul, to Delacroix, for whom he pro- 



C * 6 3 

fessed, rightly, an extraordinary admiration. 
I may regret to-day that neither through him 
nor my cousin, nor my uncle, nor any social 
connection, I saw the great man whose works 
I knew about beforehand, through literature, 
especially, and whose astounding paintings 
had been, with those of the old masters, one 
of the first great sensations of my first days in 
Paris. But I was then and I am yet, averse to 
knowing famous people, nor could I, at that 
date, have obtained from the great man any 
real value. That I also appreciated. Hero wor- 
ship is not an educational basis. I doubt if, 
with a person of that importance, there would 
have been anything to learn until one had at- 
tained already a sufficient capacity to absorb 
or discuss. So that my regret is merely a sen- 
timental one, as it is in regard to many others 
whom I either accidentally or on purpose neg- 
lected meeting. 

" I was told last year, by Sir Martin Con- 
way, that I had done wrong through not using 
later my introductions to Mr. Ruskin, because 
he was so amiable, but I have not the slightest 
doubt of my having been right. We should 
certainly have disagreed if there had been any 
discussion. At that later time, also, 1872-3, 



C 8 7 3 
Mr. Ruskin was especially aggravating — to 
such an extent that Burne- Jones, a special pet 
of his, told me that he had given up reading 
anything by him. (This is a memory of much 
later, some nearly twenty years. At the time 
I am speaking of, there was no B-J. ) 

"As I have explained, my studies or my 
impressions would to-day be called literary. 
They were so to a certain extent but more 
than anything else they were archaeological. 
Travelling somewhat in France, to make the 
acquaintance of relatives in out of the way 
places, I became naturally interested in learn- 
ing by eyesight the things that I had read 
about mediaeval architecture and mediaeval art 
especially, because a previous enthusiasm had 
been fostered at home. The acquaintance of 
a few archaeologists in out of the way places 
was favorable also. In Paris, on the contrary, 
my few acquaintances at the time were classi- 
cal scholars. 

"The churches brought me to the know- 
ledge of ancient glass and I was able to use, for 
understanding it, what I had read in the writ- 
ings of the illustrious Chevreul. He had ex- 
plained more especially, years before, the 
points of ancient work in glass and then he 



[ 88 ] 

had written, as you know, and perhaps was 
writing, on the optical views of color. This 
reading determined, I suppose, more than 
anything else, the direction which my painting 
took some years afterward, when I began to 
paint. People like myself were laughed at in 
those days, even by scientific men. Later, of 
course, the question was to become one of the 
most important in the work of the modern 
Frenchmen. Much later I was to use these 
principles and theories when I took to work- 
ing in glass, and I am still surprised that no 
one that I know of has worked in the same 
way therein. My impression is that Che- 
vreuPs teachings in regard to ancient glass 
are as far back as the thirties. 

" About my time Viollet-le-Duc was writ- 
ing and teaching and influencing many people, 
but I was out of his line of acquaintance and 
only began to know him on my return home. 
The mediaeval art that he explained and re- 
commended would not have appealed to me 
through his own work and buildings, and I am 
glad that I did not at that time suffer from 
what later annoyed me through his interpre- 
tations of the past. On the contrary, just then, 
through a tour in Belgium, I was able to see 



C89] 

some of the painting which we may call 
mediaeval and which begins modern art, and I 
was, as was right, steeped in admiration. The 
few little drawings that I made I still keep 
as fair and creditable notes, few as they are. 
They show to me that I had a passable under- 
standing of the beautiful things that I ad- 
mired. 

"All this led me to a desire to understand 
the mechanical methods of the early painters, 
especially those who invented the modern art 
of painting in oils, and by some chance of 
good fortune I made the acquaintance, in 
Brussels, of Henry Le Strange, who you know 
decorated Ely Cathedral. He was interested 
in me and in what he had to tell me practically 
about manners of painting. I learned from 
him about painting in wax, for instance, and 
was led to read various documents of informa- 
tion with regard to that question of the early 
ways of painting." 

At this point, approaching the subject of 
La Farge's brief stay in the atelier of Couture, 
a letter of his to Miss Barnes supplies a pas- 
sage of high importance. Nothing is more in- 
teresting in the psychology of La Farge than 
the slow and even unpremeditated fashion in 



which he drifted into his vocation. Vaguely 
he seems to have known his powers, yet to 
have remained indifferent and uncertain be- 
fore the gate which he had only to open in 
order to pass to a happiness that he came to 
regard as one of the most blessed gifts of the 
gods. Writing to Miss Barnes of the choice 
gently forced upon him in Paris, in 1856, he 
says : — 

" At some time or other during that year, 
when, I cannot remember, my father ( through 
my mother, I think, so that I have never 
known what he really thought) advised me 
to study painting, of which I was rather fond, 
on the ground — which was quite certain — 
that I was wasting my time and I think with 
a faint suggestion, not to me but to the family 
mind, that perhaps I was living in a little 
faster way than their habits accepted ; which 
in reality was perfect 'rot.' I was like all 
other young men, but, differently from many 
other young men, I was enormously inter- 
ested in everything except strict science and 
the mathematical side of knowledge. I was 
always very anxious to please my father as 
a matter of sentiment, and very willing to go 
and learn the practice of painting, about which 



Christ and Nicodemus 




u>p 7/u^M. 7#&6. by ui4£w fr uzm-6?zi?7x 



[91 ] 
I used to hear a great deal, because a great 
deal of my time was spent with people whose 
pleasures and interests were literary and 
artistic/' 

How he decided to enter a particular studio, 
and in what mood he took up his task there, 
he goes on to tell in the narrative upon which 
I have already drawn : — 

" My American acquaintances were then 
very much inclined to the painter Couture, 
who had quite a number of Americans in his 
studio and had been the master of several of 
them, well known in Paris and having quite a 
position of their own. One of these, Edward 
May, took me to the master one day and I 
explained to him what I wished, which was to 
get a practical knowledge of painting, as prac- 
ticed by him. I also made him understand that 
I was doing this as a study of art in general 
and had no intention of becoming a painter. 
This he at first thought preposterous and was 
probably somewhat astonished at the young- 
ster who laid out this programme in such an 
unusual manner. But I argued with him, and 
won his good graces, so that the next day in 
the early morning I entered the studio and 
took my place with the others. I was given, in 



the usual manner, by the student in control, a 
seat and place, paper, etc., and I began draw- 
ing from the model before me. There being 
no one to guide me, and feeling that the way 
the others drew was not mine, I went on my 
own way. 

" That day or next came in the great man, 
who, instead of objecting to my work having 
so little in common with those following his 
system, was pleased to say, on the contrary, 
that mine was the only one that really gave 
the motion of the model. To-day, when I look 
at the drawing, I can see why the master re- 
cognized something in the work of the boy 
which had a value of its own. He told me to 
go ahead and that the others < tried to be little 
Coutures,as if a little Couture was worth any- 
thing.' 

"I was impatient to paint according to 
school ways, for which I had come, but the 
routine of the school demanded drawing in the 
Couture way, and as I unfolded my plan to 
him he thought I might wait till the next year, 
and meanwhile go on studying the variations 
of drawing by the old masters, many of which, 
as you know, are in the Louvre. This I did for 
a time, returning occasionally to the studio. 



I 93 3 
On the whole, I did not stay there more than a 
couple of weeks." 

Before leaving this episode in his career I 
must rescue from a talk of ours an interesting 
souvenir of his stay with Couture. Puvis came 
in one day, wanting a model, and he chose La 
Farge. "Perhaps," he said to me, "it was some- 
thing in my face. I don't know what I posed 
for. Some study, perhaps. It would be amus- 
ing to discover myself somewhere in his works, 
if one could look them over in a lot of photo- 
graphs." Released from obligations which, as 
we have seen, he had only lightly assumed, as 
it were in passing, he set forth upon his trav- 
els. Speaking of the copies of drawings by the 
old masters which he made at Munich and 
Dresden, he continues : — 

" These copies have some of the qualities 
of the originals, showing that at that time I 
had become sensitive to the differences of the 
artists. You must remember that there were 
no photographs and that one had to travel, as 
I did, many hundreds of miles and many days' 
journey to find these things of which, now, 
we have duplicates in our portfolios. Study of 
the drawings of the old masters seemed to me 
a logical method of learning and learning very 



C 94 ] 

seriously. If I copied the painting for which 
the drawing had been made I could only copy 
the surface, without knowing exactly how the 
master had made this result. But I knew that 
in the master's drawings and studies for a 
given work I met him intimately, saw into his 
mind, and learned his intentions and his char- 
acter, and what was great and what was defi- 
cient. 

« Meanwhile, thereby, I kept in touch with 
that greatest of all characters of art, style, 
not the style of the Academy or of any one 
man, but the style of all the schools, the man- 
ner of looking at art which is common to all 
important personalities, however fluctuating 
its form may be. 

" In Denmark, besides making the acquaint- 
ance of some of the painters, I made some 
studies in the Copenhagen gallery. Among 
others I made a fairly careful study of the Rem- 
brandt there, the < Supper at Emmaus.' I had 
plenty of time to do it in. The summer days 
are endless. I was alone and the guardians 
treated me as a spoiled child, bringing me 
lunch and allowing me to sponge out the sur- 
faces of the great master, whose work, fortu- 
nately, had not been varnished or retouched. 



C»0 

As I did not consider that I knew enough 
about oils to copy anything of importance, I 
painted in water color, in the English way, as 
I had been taught. I was enabled to learn a 
great deal of the methods of Rembrandt and 
to connect them with my studies, outside of 
any idea of practice as yet. I have lately re- 
covered this water color, which had been lost 
for many years. It came back to me just fifty 
years after I had finished it, and I had finished 
it on the anniversary of the birth of Rem- 
brandt, two hundred years before. 

"Rubens I followed in Belgium, later, 
trying to see every painting of his throughout 
the whole kingdom ; and as many of his pupils 
as I could gather in. As far as having seen the 
master's work, I can say that I have seen the 
greater mass of it. I made no studies ; in fact 
Rubens is not one to work from easily, nor 
would it have been available for me to imi- 
tate, without a great knowledge of painting, 
the tremendous flow of color and light so 
gloriously spread over that enormous space of 
painted surface, either all his own or that of 
his pupils also. One thing I felt to be astonish- 
ing, because I had not thought it out, and that 
was, how beautifully the work of Rubens con- 



196 1 

nected with the early mediaeval paintings that 
I so much admired. And yet one might sup- 
pose the greatest difference between the deli- 
cacy and the closeness of the study of the 
older men, their reticence and their care, and 
the apparently reckless ease of the last great 
Fleming. But I learned how careful in reality 
was this generous abandonment to energy, 
how the first preparation determined the fu- 
ture ; and how prudent that first preparation 
was. 

"I did not return to Couture's. I do not 
know what I should have done had I remained 
in Europe and in Paris. But I did not admire 
his work or his views of art and he annoyed 
me, notwithstanding his friendliness, by his 
constant running down of other artists greater 
than himself. Delacroix and Rousseau were 
special objects of insult or depreciation. He 
never referred to Millet, for whom some of 
his best pupils, among others, William Hunt, 
had left him — a fact which he never forgave, 
as I learned later. I mention my indifference 
to my master, which was more than indiffer- 
ence, all the more because it is not usual. Let 
me add that I was not the only one. Among 
others, I take it that Puvis, whom we saw once 



C 97 ] 
or twice there, must have felt that way. Some 
of his first work, even that announcing his 
future powers, has some mark of Couture's 
methods. I suppose that it is almost impos- 
sible for a serious mind to pass through some 
painter's studio without getting a little of his 
method or manner or something, if it is worth 
while. I take it that that is one of the charms 
of the Italians and also that we would realize 
the cause better if we knew more of their 
actual lives. Some of the things that catch are 
purely mechanical, but as the art of painting is 
a mechanism, that mechanical influence is an 
important one. The Japanese have that thor- 
oughly in their identifying the school with the 
shape of the brush. 

" Whatever I wished or intended or thought 
of was put aside by my return home, deter- 
mined by my father's wishing me back on ac- 
count of his illness. I returned in the winter of 
1 857-8, having spent a part of the autumn in 
England on my way home. I had plenty of 
time to give to looking at paintings, because 
almost every one for whom I had letters was 
away from London. After a little while I went 
to Manchester and spent several weeks at the 
great Exposition, which was the first of the 



C 98 ] 
special exhibitions of paintings collected from 
private and royal galleries. It is still remem- 
bered as the 'Manchester Exhibition' and is 
one of the turning points of the public's ac- 
quaintance with the art of many countries. As 
you know, the wealthy collections of England 
were poured into the great show, and certainly 
the pleasure of seeing, side by side, the great 
Titian and the great Velasquez and the great 
Rubens in all their contradiction, was an edu- 
cation for any intelligent and sympathetic 
mind. We saw there the Velasquez, the figure 
of the woman lately bought for the National 
Gallery. It had come out of the shade and 
went back to it these fifty years. But I am 
pleased to think that my little memorandum 
sketch has some recognition of it, however 
careless. 

" But besides the miles of old masters, there 
were some of the quite new ; the pre-Raphael- 
ites, whom I knew of by reading and by some 
prints but whom now I could see carefully. 
They made a very great and important im- 
pression upon me, which later influenced me 
in my first work when I began to paint. But 
of that I had no warning." 

It was still without any warning in a broader 



t99l 

sense, without presage of the ambitions that 
were soon to burn in his breast and the 
achievements to which he was to push for- 
ward, that he took ship and returned to Amer- 
ica. 



IV 

THE EVOLUTION OF AN 
ARTIST 

IF there is one thing more than another 
which I hope has been made plain in the 
preceding chapter it is that none of La Farge's 
experiences abroad had crystallized his ideas 
of art into a formula. Europe had not fitted 
him out with a technique. It had awakened in 
him, and to some extent had organized, a habit 
of mind. Potent influences were singing in his 
head like wine. He could not return unscathed 
from his contact with the impetuous adherents 
of the romantic movement. But he was com- 
mitted to nothing, neither to the " rectitude' ' 
of Ingres nor to the prodigal method of that 
master's abhorred rival, neither to the flat- 
brush trick of the Salon and the gray light of 
that official tabernacle, nor to the freer atmo- 
sphere which the Barbizon men were carry- 
ing into vogue. He was, instead, in the mood 
to think it all over. 

Anatole France has a saying on Gavarni 
which is absolutely applicable to La Farge : 



John La Farge in 1885 



C 1Q1 3 

"He thinks, and that is a cause of wonder in 
the midst of all this world of artists who are 
content with seeing and feeling.' ' The point is 
one of the greatest importance, to be kept con- 
stantly in mind ; and we have at the same time 
to recognize the equilibrium established in his 
artistic nature. That he thought much did not 
prevent his seeing and feeling. It acted both 
as a check and as a fertilizing influence; it 
stayed his hand from relapsing into routine, 
and, always unfolding to him new phenomena 
in the worlds of nature and art, spurred him to 
redoubled efforts. The duality of his genius is 
sharply expressed in some of his remarks to 
me. " Were it not for our learning by instinct 
and not by thought we should never do any- 
thing. . . . Painting is, more than people think, 
a question of brains. A really intelligent man 
would not have to see, if he could only find his 
place, any more than a musician is obliged to 
hear the music he writes. Of course the actual 
execution modifies the more intellectual view 
within which the artist works." Yet he knew 
as well as any painter that ever lived the tran- 
scendent necessity of purely visual operations. 
Once, when he was anxious about the com- 
pletion of a decoration and the securing of 



[ 102 ] 

some proper place in which to exhibit it, he 
wrote to me : " My studios are too small to be 
quite certain of the effect of the work at a dis- 
tance. I mean by that that it is more prudent 
to go by one's eye rather than by reasoning, 
which, so far, I have to work with." But where 
many a painter thinks that it is enough "to go 
by one's eye," La Farge took that for granted, 
as one of the rudimentary truths, and, steep- 
ing himself in reflection, brought all manner 
of constructive thought to the development 
of his work. 

He was the most assiduous experimentalist 
in art that we have ever had. He came back 
from Europe a student and in 1903, when he 
inaugurated the Scammon lectures at the Art 
Institute of Chicago, he began by saying to 
the budding artists in his audience, "Notwith- 
standing my greater age, I am still a student." 
Letters written in his last illness beautifully 
illustrate the joyous, almost boyish, zest with 
which he had always talked to me of his in- 
terest in pigments and processes. " I had a bad 
yesterday and night and morning to-day," he 
writes. "It's all I can do to hold on." But 
even then he was busying himself over the 
cataloguing of nearly a hundred water colors 



that were going off to an exhibition in Boston, 
and, with his accustomed buoyancy, lifting 
him above ill health to the things he loved, he 
goes on to say, " In all these things of misery 
I have had a great consolation. I have found 
the Japanese and Chinese paints chosen for 
me by Okakura some years ago — all, of 
course, of great purity and of long tradition. 
Such a <Kano' blue ! The exact Chinese ver- 
milion of the extremest best! This is not 
necessary but it may help if I live, — and it is 
especially valuable as a superstition, because it 
looks as if luck smiled a moment through the 
clouds. The colors of a. d. 812, of a. d. 
1340!" 

Another letter, written at the same time, 
shows him struggling under the same burden 
but again losing himself in his art, and pausing, 
too, in spite of pain, to philosophize : — 

"I am working very hard at < finishing' 
some water colors. ... It is very hard work. 
Two or three are important, perhaps good. 
The rest, I hope, are amusing. There are 
some experiments among them, because I 
have found that when I was ill and could not, 
or thought I could not, go about or get on my 
steps before my painting, I would sit and do 



[ 104 1 
little things in size. For me many of them 
are my best work, as they are for everybody. 

" Have you ever seen my reconstitution of 
Chinese painting? I defy a Chinaman to deny 
that I have used correctly his basis. Of course 
I can't work his technique and be honest, nor 
can I even quite use some of the things I most 
admire in him — let us say his * color/ for in- 
stance. I have to be true to < us ' — paint or 
draw with the knowledge of the world. Any 
one who is a < primitive ' to-day is in so far a 
fraud. But then, fortunately, those games are 
not the games of the better men, who are glad 
to be free and not imitative. And that, you 
know, can be done even within the enclosure 
of a * school,' or the following more or less of 
a beloved master. Chasseriau used to tell me 
that it was good to leave a cherished method 
behind one and sail into the blue, as he did 
after Delacroix, pursued by Ingres' maledic- 
tions. Like the story of Theseus and Ariadne. 
But for a very sick man I write too much. A 
bientot, I hope." 

I remember his appreciation of Duprd's de- 
finition of art, as the expression of the paint- 
er's reverence and admiration for what he sees 
in nature. "It is never," he added, "the mere 



C 1Q 5 3 
representation of what we see." The ideal he 
believed in, and followed in his practice, was 
that which he describes in "An Artist's Let- 
ters from Japan," in that tribute which he pays 
to the Oriental craftsman lavishing all that is 
in him upon the execution of a little netsuke or 
inro. "And when he has finished, — because 
to do more or less would not be to finish it, — 
he has given me, besides the excellency of 
what we call workmanship, which he must 
give me because that is the bargain between 
us — he has given me his desires, his memo- 
ries, his pleasures, his dreams, all the little oc- 
currences of so much life/' Elsewhere, in one 
of the lectures going to form his " Consider- 
ations on Painting," he develops the same 
point and gives it a certain autobiographical 
turn. "After all," he says, "remember that 
what I tell you is the result of life, whether in 
thought or in action ; and that I am only able 
to give principles and foundations for think- 
ing, through having visited certain regions 
of thought, through surprises that have fallen 
upon me, and that what confidence I have to- 
day in talking to you is based on no a priori 
certainty that I had it all before beginning." 
These numerous citations are made, of 



C ioe-3 

course, with but one purpose, to expose La 
Farge's point of view. The point of view is 
everything, and, in the case of a genius so 
complex as his, no evidence is too slight, too 
fugitive, to serve us. Moreover, knowledge 
of the breadth of view which governed all his 
artistic proceedings supplies us with a touch- 
stone especially desirable at the present time, 
when the student has to be on his guard against 
the oracles toward whom he would naturally 
turn for guidance. There are some painters, 
very clever painters, too, who can sink to well- 
nigh fathomless depths of fatuity on the sub- 
ject of what constitutes the art of painting. It 
is easy to understand how they have fallen into 
a rather circumscribed way of thinking on that 
subject. Thirty odd years ago, when the mi- 
gration of our young artists to Paris had set 
in, but the public taste for the painted anec- 
dote had not abated, the returned American 
found himself placed more or less on the de- 
fensive ; and, often without knowing it, he has 
been on the defensive ever since. Commended 
by his French master for a well-managed pas- 
sage in technique, he came back defiantly to 
flaunt his manual dexterity in the faces of the 
collectors, who were then clinging with pious 



C 10 ? 3 

faith to the "Kiss Mummy" picture. He has 
not only gone on painting the morceau but has 
settled down to the touching belief that there 
is something talismanic about it. There is 
something talismanic about it, in the right 
hands, when the instinct for beauty and for 
style is so strong that it raises technique to a 
higher power. La Farge himself has a good 
saying to stiffen the back of the painter who 
will listen to nothing that seems even faintly 
to disparage the purely technical function. 
" The touch of the brush is so difficult when it 
comes to be a very successful thing, that it be- 
comes ennobled." But this is a very different 
thing from making a fetish offacture. 

La Farge knew all about fact ure. No other 
man of his time knew more. All his life long 
he was interested in its problems and it is sug- 
gestive to see how, in his dealings with the old 
masters, he puts his finger on whatever pre- 
figurements they disclose of our modern con- 
noisseurship in technique. In his essay on Ra- 
phael, coming to treat of " The Mass of Bol- 
sena," he calls the reader's attention to the 
portrait of Pope Julius, "painted with the ap- 
parent velocity and ease which we credit to 
such a man as Velasquez, " and he used to say 



t 108 ] 

that when he had sat at the feet of Rembrandt, 
copying the "Supper at Emmaus," in Copen- 
hagen, he received a technical lesson that 
had never ceased to affect his practice. What 
he would have repudiated with vigor would 
have been the assertion that Rembrandt, or 
any other single master, could have taught 
him the whole duty of the artist, and, con- 
versely, it was impossible for him dogmatically 
to assert that any given mode was wrong. 
In fact, he regarded such assertion with an 
amused tolerance, feeling a little sorry for those 
who made it a habit, and assuming, in kindly 
fashion, that by and by they would grow out 
of their provincialism. There were so many 
ways of caressing the surface of a painting ! 
When I mentioned to him the discovery of an 
accomplished young painter that Fra Angelico 
did not know how to paint, it greatly tickled 
him and he recalled the similar remark made 
by a junior of his, full of Impressionism and 
the like, when they were standing in the 
Louvre before a picture by the devout Flor- 
entine. "I wondered," he said, "how my 
young companion would have gone to work to 
get just the blue of that robe, just the white of 
that wall, and to draw just that line against the 



[ 109 3 
background." There was no answer to his 
questions, "and," he added to me, "I have 
often wondered howl myself could have done 
those things." He was full of wonder when he 
came back from Europe in his youth. For the 
manner in which he gradually solved his pro- 
blem we turn again to his own narrative. 

"I knew that on my return I should go 
back to reading law; which I accordingly did, 
though stealing as much time as I could for 
visits to some of my new friends, the painters 
and architects. They made a manner of link 
with Europe, at least the architects did, 
Richard Hunt and his two or three students, 
George Post and Van Brunt, and William 
Ware and Richard Gambrill. 

" I only touched the merest corners of 
what was being done. I did not know of our 
pre-Raphaelites here, as a body, though I 
spent some time with Stillman, who was one 
of their prophets. I knew Boughton, who was 
to leave us soon, and a few of the Hudson 
River men. 

"In the middle of the next year I began to 
be a little freer of myself; I saw a little more 
of the few artists, and even took a room at the 
Studio Building in Tenth Street, where occa- 



sionally I made some little drawings, and 
even tried to paint on a small and amateurish 
scale, but I recognized that I needed a train- 
ing in the practice of painting. I had even 
thought of going back again to Europe to go 
through a certain discipline, which if not ab- 
solutely necessary is still valuable. It is pre- 
ferable to have very good teaching and the 
best, but even a poor one in such a mechani- 
cal art has enormous value. 

" Talking of this one day to Richard Hunt, 
merely because his French training had made 
him acquainted with and respectful of the 
artists of France whom I especially liked, he 
suggested that I might like to be with his 
brother, William, who thought of taking some 
pupils, who was settled in Newport, and with 
whom I could continue the practical teachings 
that I had almost begun at Couture's studio; 
Hunt being, of course, a favorite and brilliant 
pupil of Couture's. I met thereupon Bill Hunt, 
saw some piece of his work, and was pleased 
both with the man and with what he did and 
said, and with all of that very charming char- 
acter, so that in the spring of 1859 I came to 
Newport to try the experiment, and began 
in a little more serious way than before. 



C 11J 3 

" But a disappointment was in store for me, 
and it was this, — that Hunt had abandoned 
the practice of Couture, which was what I 
wished to continue. He was then arranging, 
as men often do, other influences to suit his 
previous ones and was painting in a manner 
which, however interesting to me, was not 
what I had come to get. But his general influ- 
ence was so good, and the pleasure of de- 
voting almost all my time to painting as a task 
under a teacher, kept me satisfied with my 
momentary position. And there was always 
something to learn from a new man whom I 
liked, to learn or to share with him, for we 
found more and more common admirations. 
He introduced me to the knowledge of the 
works of Millet, of which he had many, in- 
cluding the famous ' Sower/ and very many 
drawings, and more especially to the teach- 
ings, the sayings, and the curious spiritual life 
which a great artist like Millet opens to his 
devotees. Every day some remark of Millet's 
was quoted, some way of his was noticed, 
some part of his life was told ; he was, in this 
way, in those studios, a patron saint. 

" Notwithstanding, though I even copied a 
Millet or two, I was firmly resolved against 



C 112 3 

following him either with or without Hunt, in 
the methods which were especially developed 
by the great Frenchman. His previous meth- 
ods, which one sees more distinctly in some 
of his landscapes, and, of course, in his early 
work, were nearer what I had been looking 
for, however less poetic and more common- 
place they might be, but my aim was study 
and the acquaintance with methods of work 
that would connect generally with the past, 
not with new formulae which were abridg- 
ments. So that to some extent I had to fight 
out my own issue, and Hunt and I disagreed, 
but we had so many common beliefs and 
Hunt's was so charming a mind, that often he 
was the first and only one to praise me when 
I departed from his method, as from his gen- 
eral views. 

"All this refers to landscape more particu- 
larly, because the closed light of the studio is 
more the same for every one, and for all day, 
and its problems, however important, are ex- 
tremely narrow, compared with those of out 
of doors. There I wished to apply principles 
of light and color of which I had learned a 
little. I wished my studies from nature to in- 
dicate something of this, to be free from re- 



cipes, as far as possible, and to indicate very 
carefully, in every part, the exact time of day 
and circumstances of light. This of course is 
the most ambitious of all possible ideas, and 
though attempted to some extent through 
several centuries from time to time it is only 
recently that all the problems have been 
stated, in intention at least, by modern paint- 
ing. 

"In a certain way Hunt recognized the 
value of the ideas and the value of their result, 
but his aim was quite the other way; and that 
was to find the recipe which would be suffi- 
cient for noting what he wished to do. Herein 
he was following the steps of Millet, but as 
Millet himself objected to him, "That is all 
very good, but what have you got to say with 
it?" This is not to say that Hunt had not a 
right to do whatever he wished in such a way, 
especially as for him in general the future was 
merely as the past in representing figures and 
portraits, and he gave up the entire question 
of the place in which the figures lived, air and 
light and space. We used to talk, however, 
about it all. 

"To recall all these discussions would be a 
lengthy matter, but it is necessary to indicate 



C 114 ] 

this great divergence of point of view. We 
had, of course, certain previous teachings in 
common and certain mechanisms. We used 
similar paints, and canvas which I imported ; 
we made a shadow of flesh in the same way 
occasionally and we used the same brushes. 
We also used similar grounds to paint on, until 
I began to change according to circumstances. 
In fact, I suggested to Hunt the preparing of 
his paintings in a way that he had not so far 
practiced, and I occasionally helped him in one 
or two of these preparations, as did some of 
his other pupils. 

" I, too, the next year, began to paint in a 
different way according to this notion, a very 
elementary one. But the main practical point 
in which we differed was this, which serves as 
a type or note of diversity: Hunt thought it 
useless to carry the refinement of tone and 
color to the extent which I aimed at in my 
studies, telling me that there would not be one 
in a hundred or five hundred artists capable of 
appreciating such differences of accuracy — 
their eyes and their training would not be suf- 
ficient. This objection seemed to me, as I told 
him, exactly the reason why I should, for cer- 
tain, aim at these variations from recipe. So 



C 115 3 
much the better, if only one man in a thou- 
sand could see it; I should then have exactly 
what I wanted in the appeal to the man who 
knew and to the mind like mine. 

"The first and special work I did according 
to my liking was in a few months after coming 
to Hunt. The first distinctive paintings were 
a couple of landscapes painted in December, 
1859, and perhaps as late as January, i860. 
They still remain and you can see one of them 
at Mrs. Gardner's and one at Sir William 
Van Home's. They are each studies out of 
the window to give the effect and appearance 
of looking out of the window and our not being 
in the same light as the landscape. And also 
to indicate very exactly the time of day and 
the exact condition of the light in the sky. 
This to be done without using the methods of 
mere light and dark, and thus throwing away 
the studio practice for any previous habit. 

"This, of course, is contrary to most of the 
manners of making studies, though to-day it 
would be better understood than it could have 
been then. I note that I had then, and have no 
objection now, and much admiration, for the 
reverse way of doing, and of using a conven- 
tional method. Of course that would be if the 



thing were beautiful and in some relation, as, 
for instance, Millet's later work, while his 
early work was more in the meaning of my 
studies. Therein and in the work I did during 
my time with Hunt, that is to say in 1859, 1 
aimed at making a realistic study of painting, 
keeping to myself the designs and attempts, 
serious or slight, which might have a meaning 
more than that of a strict copy from nature. 
I painted flowers to get the relation between 
the softness and brittleness of the flower and 
the hardness of the bowl or whatever it might 
be in which the flower might be placed. In- 
stead of arranging my subject, which is the 
usual studio way, I had it placed for me by 
chance, with any background and any light, 
leaving, for instance, the choice of flowers and 
vase to the servant girl or groom or any one. 
Or else I copied the corner of the breakfast 
table as it happened to be. You will see that 
that is a reasonable method of meeting any 
difficulties that come up in strict painting. 

" I got quite sure that my many years' ac- 
quaintance with the works of art which were 
arrangements would be sufficient to remain in 
my mind while I worked in so different a way 
for purposes of education. In the studio with 



I "7 3 
Hunt we (for there were three or four of us), 
painted from the model in his way, which was 
a variation of Couture's ; perhaps not exactly 
his way but with his mixtures of paints and 
his kind of brush.' ' 

La Farge loved to dwell upon that period 
of exciting experiment and treasured all its 
souvenirs, especially those connected with his 
fellow students. Amongst these was the late 
William James, who drew " beautifully " he 
said, repeating the word three or four times. 
He knew Henry James also, then and there- 
after. The novelist had, he said, the painter's 
eye, adding that few writers possessed it. In 
La Farge's opinion the literary man did not so 
much see a thing as think about it. In those old 
days he advised Henry James to turn writer, 
but, he said, he did not offer his counsel dog- 
matically. He simply felt vaguely that in the 
conflict between the two instincts in his friend 
the writing one seemed the stronger. He was 
always pleased to remember, by the way, that 
when Stanford White had come to him with 
the ambition to be a painter he had urged him, 
instead, to embrace architecture as his pro- 
fession. Some of the gifts of the painter were 
there, he told me, but on the whole he felt that 



C "8] 
White's bent for building and decoration was 
decisive and it interested him to observe the 
confirmation of his judgment in the architect's 
career. His friendship with William James had 
the special warmth springing from youthful 
struggles together and he delighted to talk of 
a meeting that they had late in life, the first in 
something like twenty-one years. They dined 
together and some time afterwards La Farge, 
who had spoken to me of the episode before, 
wrote to me about it more in detail in this 
letter: — 

" He reminded me as we dined of our going 
out sketching together at the Glen, Newport, 
and of what I was painting then, and that I 
was not copying. On the contrary, I was 
merely using the facts to support my being in 
relation to nature. It is Rousseau who said, for 
painting out of doors in study, < You can paint 
a chestnut well from an oak if you are in the 
mood to feel nature call on you.' Well, this 
had intrigued James all these years (fifty) 
and also my manner of painting. The ground 
of my panel was absolutely black. I should 
think so. It was a beautifully 'varnished ' Jap- 
anese black panel ! of which I had taken off 

1 As a matter of fact, an old tea tray, he told me. 



the top shining coats to get at the dull < pre- 
paration ' underneath, on which as you know 
the work is based. It could not be blacker and 
safer. It will last a thousand years and stand 
being in the sea, etc. And my picture, of 
course, has not altered. It is in the Boston 
Museum. And across all those years W. J. 
remembered it. I explained to his satisfac- 
tion. Then he said: 'Do you remember the 
bread and butter, and there was a red-headed 
girl served us.' 'W./ I said, 'many a red- 
headed girl I have met (and white horse) but 
I'll take this one for granted.' 'Well,' he 
concluded, ' John, who could have guessed 
then that to-day we should be sitting here, 
each one an authority in his own profession ! ' 
Is that James-y or not? And is n't it pretty? 
A few days after, at Easter, in Columbia 
Chapel, the clergyman preaching referred to 
James, not the Christian apostle, but our 
friend, and the views we associate with him." 
With Newport he had, for most of his life, 
close relations, keeping a home there and pre- 
serving the local friendships dating from his 
studies with Hunt, but when the latter were 
broken off the scenes and events of his life 
rapidly changed. Early in i860 he returned 



C 12 ° 3 

to New York and for the moment abandoned 
painting, and in the early spring he went 
South to Louisiana. There the artistic faculty- 
reasserted itself. "I drew and painted/' he 
says, "because it was so tempting, always 
drawing or painting in the way of study of 
some special side of the things we see, and 
keeping secret to myself some of the draw- 
ings, which you may have seen, and which 
were made to illustrate Browning's poems." 
When he came North in May he was de- 
layed in all his projects "and generally made 
doubtful of the future by having brought 
back from the marshes of Louisiana a bad 
case of malaria which for many years hung 
over me." He resumed his painting, starting 
an important picture of St. Paul preaching, 
for the church or chapel of his friend Father 
Hecker, the founder of the Paulist order, but 
the work went slowly. In i860 he was mar- 
ried, to Miss Margaret Mason Perry. Then 
came the war, but, as I have previously men- 
tioned, La Farge's eyes were not fitted for the 
battlefield and the effect at this time, despite 
poignant distractions, was simply to confirm 
him in the enthusiastic practice of the profes- 
sion into which he had drifted. I make much 



c i21 : 

of the influences that moulded him and ac- 
cordingly I speak here of his meeting with 
John Bancroft, a friend who gave him still an- 
other key to the mysterious land of art. He 
thus recognizes the gift : — 

" The war upset all my notions of the fu- 
ture I had sketched out, that is to say of going 
to Europe and making further studies there 
and becoming definitely a painter, or at any 
rate devoting myself to an artistic career. 
For every reason I remained here, deeply in- 
terested in the war and regretting having no 
chance to take any part in it. It was thus that 
I came to know John Bancroft, who had been 
down to try, but who found that he was not 
fitted for anything like that, though his health 
was as good as mine was bad, still broken by 
the continuance of the illness acquired in the 
South. 

"This acquaintance with Bancroft and a 
continued friendship was a serious factor in 
my life. He was a student, almost too much 
of one, and we plunged into the great ques- 
tions of light and color which were beginning 
to be laid out by the scientific men and which 
later the painters were to take up. This was 
the cause of a great deal of work but of less 



C 122 3 

painting, if I may say so, less picture-making, 
because of an almost incessant set of observa- 
tions and comments and inquiries supple- 
mented by actual work in painting. All that I 
have done since then has been modified by 
those few years of optical studies, and the last 
realistic painting which may have shown it is 
the * Paradise Valley,' which belongs to '66- 
'67-68. 

" Bancroft and myself were very much in- 
terested in Japanese color prints and I im- 
ported a great many in the early sixties for us 
both, through A. A. Low. I think it was 1 863. 
We had to risk our purchases entirely and got 
few things as we should have chosen them, as 
we had at that time no persons interested in 
such things. We had nobody over there in 
Japan to buy for us with any discretion. The 
point that interested us both has not yet, I 
think, been studied out. I may be wrong, but 
I have never heard it discussed among the 
people who have been influenced by Japanese 
printing or by the amateurs of those things. 
The very serious point to me was the display 
in certain of these color prints of landscape 
relations in color. This is done so simply as 
to give a continuous explanation of how the 



painter built his scheme, and for Bancroft 
and myself, interested in constructing simi- 
lar schemes, according to modern scientific 
analyses, this Japanese confirmation and occa- 
sional teaching was full of most serious inter- 
est. Whether Mr. Whistler, for instance, ever 
saw this I do not know. Of course he and 
others were much interested in the beautiful 
arrangements of light or dark, light and color, 
and so on, and Mr. Whistler appreciated this 
and amused himself by making more of it than 
really was necessary to a man of his capacity. 
" For a person of your intelligence and cul- 
ture knows quite well that the Japanese thing 
in those matters is not new, that the merit of 
these things in the way of color, line, and space 
and the arrangement of the three is exactly 
what it has always been in the best work of 
every nation and every clime, as far as we 
know. But in the Japanese prints and in some 
of their paintings it is more obvious because it 
is less covered up. It is like a child's book in 
words of three syllables. It was so that any one 
who ran could read and at length people be- 
gan to catch on. But you know this and know 
how foolish and childish is the talk of to-day 
with regard to any novelty in the principles of 



[ 124 ] 

these now admired bits of art, which at my 
date endangered with amateurs the reputation 
of the painter who publicly admired them. 

"Let us reverse this question and take an 
anecdote of Okakura. On one of his first days 
here I took him to see some wonderful Rem- 
brandts. Okakura knelt before them and said, 
'This is what the great Chinese artists in black 
and white meant to do.' Then he recognized 
carefully and analyzed the same points that 
we are speaking of, taking one day to study 
the arrangement of line and space; the next 
day for the study of the arrangement of black 
and white, and the next day again for the pic- 
ture part, that told the story, the wonderful 
meaning and the extraordinary skill in draw- 
ing which allowed those incredible subtle 
meanings to be represented by a line of the 
etcher. As you see, he was faithful to the 
fundamental laws, those by which I hold, and 
he saw first the basis of the Rembrandt, which 
it has in common with all great work, and then 
the special beauties of Rembrandt himself." 

Europe had helped La Farge and he had 
stretched out an acquisitive hand to the East. 
Literature and art, archaeology and science, 
had all contributed to bring his genius to the 



C 12 5 ] 
point of efflorescence. Arduously, and yet with 
a disinterestedness that makes him seem more 
a type of natural and happy growth than of 
straining effort, he had arrived at the making 
of beautiful pictures. 



HALF A CENTURY OF 
PAINTING 

THE title of this chapter points to the 
unity in the life of a great artist which 
his biographer always comes so soon to recog- 
nize. In the years of preparation external in- 
cidents stand out in sharp relief and there is 
some difficulty in so coordinating them as to 
show their formative influences. Then, with 
the maturing of a man's gifts and their final 
consecration to a single purpose, the miscel- 
laneous events of his career, if I may so de- 
fine them, fall into a more or less subordi- 
nate relation. Where he was once dominated 
he now dominates. Experience may have its 
initiatory significance, but on the whole it 
counts more as supplying the raw material 
for creative processes. The La Farge of Paul 
de Saint- Victor's Paris and of wide European 
wanderings, the La Farge of the Manchester 
Exposition and pre-Raphaelite contacts, is a 
temperament feeling its way. The La Farge 
of the half-century with which I have now to 
deal is simply a genius in action. 



The Ascension 



C 12 ? 3 

All that happens to him in this period is of 
interest more particularly as it finds expres- 
sion in his work. His cup of sensation was well 
filled. In the early seventies he went again to 
Europe, which, indeed, he was not infrequently 
to revisit. Later he made two memorable jour- 
neys, to Japan and to the South Seas. At home 
he played a constructive part in the building 
up of an American school of art, constantly 
figuring in the world of exhibitions and gen- 
eral organization, training assistants and trans- 
mitting his knowledge not only directly to 
pupils but through lectures and writings. His 
work in glass and mural decoration had also 
the effect of immensely increasing the number 
of those episodes which diversify the purely 
human side of an artist's life. On more than 
one of those episodes we shall have occasion to 
pause. But it is La Farge the artist, specifi- 
cally, who now engages our study, and, above 
all, La Farge the painter. 

He first assumed that character with abso- 
lute authority in the " Paradise Valley/ ' that 
Newport landscape dating from the sixties 
with which his recollections have already 
given us some little acquaintance. It is a pic- 
ture of peculiar significance in the history of 



C 128 3 

American art, especially for any one of the 
present generation. When I first saw it, a 
long time ago, I found no difficulty in appre- 
hending its beauty. There was nothing in the 
least esoteric about it. And yet I was a little 
puzzled. Impressionism, I knew, had come 
into American painting long after its date, 
and, besides, La Farge was not painting, at 
the moment, anything quite like it, nor had 
he done so for years. Yet here was a land- 
scape, done in America while the Hudson 
River school was still active in the land, and 
preserving qualities of light and atmosphere 
to which that school had never even begun to 
attain. Also it was as emphatically modern as 
anything painted in the last quarter of a cen- 
tury. Indeed, this picture, like the master- 
pieces of Corot and Rousseau — to which, by 
the way, it owns no kinship implying the debt 
of the imitator — has that effect as of truth and 
artistic Tightness which is of no date. For the 
critic, instinctively eager to account for so be- 
wildering a boon, the work naturally had an 
extraordinary interest, and in talk with La 
Farge the subject was one to which we were 
always returning. 

He himself had a lively appreciation of its 



C 12 9 ] 
historical meaning and liked to go over the 
origins of his success in landscape. It was a 
hard-won success and involved, among other 
things, a lavish expenditure of patience. He 
built himself a little hut among the rocks, 
where he would leave his picture, going back 
day after day so as to get as far as possible 
the same light. Fishermen broke into the hut 
once, to injure the canvas, and he had trouble 
with gypsies, whose prying ways threatened 
disaster to his handiwork, but nothing daunted 
him. He was urged on, too, by the over- 
powering impulse of the discoverer, the con- 
viction that if he could do what he had in his 
mind he would push back the boundaries of 
landscape art. In the " Paradise Valley/' he 
told me, " I undertook a combination of a large 
variety of problems which were not in the line 
of my fellow artists here, nor did I know of 
any one in Europe who at that time undertook 
them." He then elaborated the description of 
his procedure : — 

"My programme was to paint from nature 
a portrait, and yet to make distinctly a work 
of art which should remain as a type of the 
sort of subject I undertook, a subject both 
novel and absolutely 'everydayish.' I there- 



fore had to choose a special moment of the day 
and a special kind of weather at a special time 
of the year, when I could count upon the 
same effect being repeated. I chose a number 
of difficulties in combination so as to test my 
acquaintance with them both in theory of 
color and light and in the practice of painting 
itself. I chose a time of day when the shadows 
falling away from me would not help me to 
model or draw, or make ready arrangements 
for me, as in the concoction of pictures usu- 
ally ; and I also took a fairly covered day, 
which would still increase the absence of 
shadows. That would be thoroughly com- 
monplace, as we see it all the time, and yet 
we know it to be beautiful, like most of < out- 
of-doors.' I modelled these surfaces of plain 
and sky upon certain theories of the opposi- 
tion of horizontals and perpendiculars in 
respect to color and I carried this general 
programme into as many small points of de- 
tail as possible. I also took as a problem the 
question of the actual size of my painting as 
covering the surface which I really saw at a 
distance, which would be represented by the 
first appearance of the picture. A student of 
optics will understand. 



C 131 3 

"The main difficulty was to do all this 
from nature and to keep steadily at the same 
time to these theories without having them 
stick out, if I may say so, as some of my in- 
telligent foreign friends managed to do. In 
nature nothing sticks out. My foreign friends 
also have since worked out similar problems 
but they have not always insisted upon that 
main one, that the problems are not visible in 
nature. Nature, meaning in this case the land- 
scape we look at, looks as if it had done itself 
and had not been done by an artist/ ' 

That last remark is very characteristic of 
La Farge's aversion from the mere display of 
learning, the deliberate exaltation of person- 
alized technique. Competent execution, as I 
have remarked before, he took for granted as 
the proper attribute of any self-respecting 
painter. There is a delightful instance of this 
in a letter of his to Miss Barnes, embodying 
much the same analysis of the same picture 
as that given in the foregoing quotation. 
"This, of course/' he concludes, "has nothing 
to do with the actual technique employed in 
the painting, about which any artist of know- 
ledge can judge." It was just about that time, 
in 1869, that he was made a member of the 



Academy of Design. However he may have 
struck his new colleagues we may be certain 
of one thing, that he gave them furiously to 
think. I can cite no contemporary criticism of 
the "Paradise Valley " in particular, but there 
is one available passage on his work in that 
period from the pen of a coeval and friend. It 
occurs in "The Digressions of V," the charm- 
ing autobiography in which Elihu Vedder has 
only lately told us of his early impressions of 
art and artists. Speaking of his experiences 
in Boston just after the war he says : — 

" I always connect La Farge with the Bos- 
ton of that time. If Hunt was comforting, La 
Farge was inspiring; I have never met any 
one more so, and it was only my impervious- 
ness that prevented my profiting more by his 
advice and example. It was at this time he 
painted those flowers — one might say truth- 
fully his flowers; I had never seen anything 
like them then, and I have never seen any- 
thing like them since. At this time I remem- 
ber Doll having for sale that wonderful little 
picture of La Farge' s, — the old Newport 
house with its large roof covered with snow, 
standing solemnly in the gloom of an over- 
cast winter day, — not only wonderful in 



C ^3 ] 
sentiment, but for the truth of the transmitted 
light through the snow-burdened air. I went 
to Doll's one day with the firm intention of 
becoming the happy possessor of this little 
picture, but La Farge by some subtle instinct 
must have scented danger, and I found it was 
no longer for sale. This quality of subtlety is 
shown in those never-to-be-forgotten flowers, 
particularly in that damp mass of violets in a 
shallow dish on a window-sill, where the out- 
side air faintly stirring the lace curtains seems 
to waft the odour towards you. This quality, 
peculiarly his own, affects me in his writings, 
so that as a writer I was at one time inclined 
to find fault with him for a certain elaborate 
obscurity in his style, which I now see arises 
from his striving to express shades of thought 
so delicate that they seem to render words al- 
most useless. Therefore his words seem to 
hover about a thought as butterflies hover 
about the perfume of a flower. ,, 

In this evocation of the very life of nature 
La Farge was unapproachable among painters 
of flowers, save by the French Fantin-Latour 
and the American Maria Oakey Dewing, one 
of his own pupils. To say of a master in this 
field that he interprets the soul of a flower is 



C 134 3 

to risk a certain misunderstanding, for the 
phrase may so readily be made to point to 
imaginative and even " literary " ideas of 
which the painter never dreamed. Yet there 
is no other phrase so delicately, so truthfully 
descriptive. Anatole France, to whom I find 
myself so often returning as I think of La 
Farge, recalls George Sand's reverie over 
some wild sage that had left its perfume on 
her hands, and, many miles away, had stirred 
her to affectionate remembrance. She waxed 
poetic on the theme. We have all shared in 
her experience. We are all, in other words, 
aware of something more than sensuous 
beauty in a flower, something that seems 
really among the things of the spirit. So La 
Farge painted his flowers, with an indescriba- 
ble tenderness. His vision pierced deeper than 
that of the artist who would deal in forthright, 
domineering fashion with "things seen." He 
could not shake off the glamour of things 
unseen but felt. Like that veil on which Flau- 
bert is so magnificent there was always a 
beauty just beyond his reach. And yet, as I 
cannot too often emphasize, there went hand in 
hand with his subtle, spiritualized conception 
of art, that habit of the scientific inquirer and 



C 135 ] 

the experimentalist in technique which allied 
him to the great realists in painting. Here is 
his reply to inquiries of mine about his early 
flower paintings, some of them going as far 
back as 1859 : — 

"My painting of flowers was in great part 
a study ; that is, a means of teaching myself 
many of the difficulties of painting, some of 
which are contradictory, as, for example, the 
necessity of extreme rapidity of workmanship 
and very high finish. Many times in painting 
flowers I painted right on without stopping, 
painting sometimes far into the night or to- 
wards morning while the flower still retained 
the same shade, which it was sure to lose soon. 
This obliged me also to know the use of my 
colors and the principles of the use of the 
same, for the difference between daylight and 
lamplight is very great, and the colors as one 
sees them in one light are not the colors of 
another. That we all know, as even the ladies 
do who wear different colors for night from 
what they do for the day. 

"Thinking again about the pictures of 
flowers which I used to paint, there were, be- 
sides the paintings that were studies of the 
flowers, and those that were painted as pic- 



I 136 ] 

tures, certain ones in which I tried to give 
something more than a study or a handsome 
arrangement. Some few were paintings of the 
water lily, which has, as you know, always 
appealed to the sense of something of a mean- 
ing — a mysterious appeal such as comes to us 
from certain arrangements of notes of music. 
Hence, I was not surprised a few weeks ago 
to find a design for a frame of one of these 
paintings of the water lily, treated as 'the' 
water lily, not <a' water lily. The frame had 
a few bars of one of Schumann's songs, which 
was written to Heine's verses, — 

' ' Du , schone weisse Blume, 
Kanst du das Lied verstehn ? 

"I cannot tell, of course, whether in these 
two or three attempts I have done something 
more than a mere handsome representation, 
but the intention I had, and consequently I 
painted with great care, so carefully that the 
paintings probably looked easily done because 
of their real finish, which did not show any of 
what Mr. Whistler calls finish." 

It is in the period from which most of these 
flower paintings are derived that we come 
upon one of the delightful interludes in La 



C 137 ] 
Farge's artistic development, like his excur- 
sions into the crafts and into sculpture, which 
denote his inexhaustible energy and the pas- 
sion of the artist to be forever fashioning some- 
thing with his hands. When Ticknor and 
Fields started "The Riverside Magazine," a 
periodical for the young, and the editor, the 
late Horace Scudder, was looking for good 
illustrations, the only artist who gave him 
solid satisfaction, he wrote to William Ros- 
setti, was La Farge. The latter, hampered by 
ill-health, nevertheless continued to draw. 
For an edition of "Enoch Arden," published 
by the same firm, he did some of his work 
"bolstered up in bed," the blocks going to 
press a few minutes after the engraver had 
pulled his proof. In the "Rossetti Papers," 
where Scudder's letter is printed, the English 
poet's brother gives also this extract from his 
diary for April, 1868: — 

"Showed Gabriel the photographs sent me 
by Scudder after designs ( < Piper of Hamelin,' 
etc. ) by La Farge ; he was much pleased with 
them, and took them off to show to Brown." 

They pleased La Farge. I think he kept a 
soft spot in his heart for these waifs and strays 
of his young manhood, and one evidence of 



this is the manner in which, long afterwards, 
he would occasionally make further use of 
their motives. The design of a seated actor 
made for Browning's "Men and Women " 
ultimately reappeared in the memorial win- 
dow to Edwin Booth, and when he was paint- 
ing his " Socrates/ ' for the Supreme Court at 
St. Paul, he told me that he was amusing him- 
self by reproducing in the charioteer and his 
horses one of his early drawings. At the time 
when these were made his plans were gen- 
erous in scope. For Browning's poems he 
contemplated producing over three hundred 
drawings, and he started upon an edition of the 
Gospels for Mr. Houghton. He and Scudder 
were in very warm sympathy, greatly fostered 
by the admiration they shared for the chaotic 
genius of William Blake; and the two, artist 
and editor, projected a wonderful series of a 
hundred or more illustrations for the "River- 
side." La Farge's idea was to develop fanta- 
sies, "imaginary representations or fairly ac- 
curate representations of historic incidents 
which were doubtful or of such a poetic nature 
as to pass easily into fairyland." He thought, 
too, of taking subjects from Greek history and 
Egyptian tradition, far-away themes, the more 



[ !S9 3 
remote the better, and his imagination rested 
fondly on the idea of witches. Comparatively 
few of these illustrations were actually en- 
graved, and printed at the time — two or 
three in the "Songs from Old Dramatists' ' 
and a handful in Scudder's magazine — but 
these few are of deep interest. Academic crit- 
ics were then a little disposed to question the 
thoroughness of La Farge's handling of the 
figure, and perhaps they were right ; but if he 
was somewhat deficient in matters of anatom- 
ical structure there was nothing in his work- 
manship to diminish the force of his inventive 
faculty. His " Bishop Hatto," his " Giant," his 
"Fisherman and the Afrite" are wonderfully 
poetic creations, enveloped in the true spirit 
of romance. In one particular instance he 
bodied forth a fantastic idea with extraordi- 
nary power. "The Wolf Charmer" gives a 
haunting reality to a figure that never existed. 
How deeply it interested him may be judged 
by the fact that he took up the subject again, 
afterwards, in other mediums, ultimately pro- 
ducing the large version in oils now in the pub- 
lic museum at St. Louis. 

This painting is an impressive manifestation 
of La Farge's genius for the illustration of po- 



[ 140 ] 

etic feeling. The central idea is not precisely 
either historical or dramatic. This page out 
of the folk lore of Brittany tells no very elabo- 
rate story. The piper who draws the wolves 
after him with his piping may be the hero of 
any number of eerie narratives recited by rus- 
tic firesides, but the tales told about him have 
not crystallized in a single fabric of romance 
universally known. His charm is vague and 
subtle. It consists, when all is said, in just the 
incongruity of a human being consorting with 
wild beasts on some strange understanding 
that might in an instant be broken, with dis- 
astrous results. It is music that is the tenuous 
bond between this uncouth shepherd and his 
green-eyed, slavering flock. Were the notes 
to cease but for a moment the man who seems 
to be the master would be torn by the brutes 
that follow his wild strain. That, at all events, 
is one of the thoughts provoked by this pic- 
ture ; the imagination is filled with a sense of 
crouching terrors, of forest mysteries, of ad- 
venture in a world that to the mortal eye is a 
sealed book. La Farge, with the magic of his 
art, makes us free of that world. 

It is characteristic of him that he does this 
not with the aid of grotesque accessories or 



C 141 ] 
with the ingenious manipulation of light and 
shade, but by the simple process of giving 
the piper and his wolves intense reality. The 
weird, huddled procession comes toward us 
through a passage between giant rocks, and 
beyond these we see the forest, a place of 
vast tree trunks and illimitable distances. The 
murmuring silence of the wildwood is there, 
and in it we feel that anything is possible, even 
this monstrous companionship of man and 
beast. There is a great deal contributing to 
the effect of the picture in the details of move- 
ment and gesture. The piper bent over his 
task and slowly advancing, the wolves pad- 
ding around and after him, bring many unob- 
trusive but weighty touches of expression into 
the scheme. But it is as a unit of imaginative 
design that "The Wolf Charmer" bewilders 
and enchants. It produces an illusion as of 
something seen in a dream, poignantly real- 
ized while the dream lasts, and yet appre- 
hended, as things are so often apprehended in 
a dream, with an indefinable consciousness of 
supernatural implications. It is as though the 
living world and the world of faery were made 
one in a kind of vision. 

When the painting was exhibited it met 



[ 142 ] 

with some criticism, again with reference to 
details of structure in the forms, and La Farge 
had some things to tell me on that point. He 
said that people might argue that the animals 
were not truthfully drawn, but there was a 
reason for the lines he had adopted. He was 
not trying to represent nature but to create 
the atmosphere of the little German poem 
that had first put the idea of "The Wolf 
Charmer" into his head. In that poem, he 
said, the wolf was an eerie idea, chiefly, not 
literally a beast of fur and fangs. So when he 
made the original drawing, years ago, the one 
for the wood-cut, he made many studies of 
jackals and hyenas and deliberately mingled 
their traits with those of the true wolf in his 
design. He told me, by the way, that his old 
professor in anatomy, Dr. Rimmer, depre- 
cated his making so many studies, with the 
remark, " When you make so many studies 
you discharge your memory.' ' La Farge ad- 
mitted that there was a good deal in this but 
somehow the study idea had always appealed 
to his sense of artistic duty and he had filled 
countless sketch books in the course of his life. 
About " The Wolf Charmer " he told me an 
incident that had given him immense plea- 



C 143 3 

sure. When he went to Japan he met there a 
court painter, now dead, one Hung Ai. "Oh, 
you are the wolf man," exclaimed this artist, 
instantly remembering him as the maker of 
the design which he knew in the old en- 
graving. He also surprised La Farge by 
guessing that some of the work had been done 
with a Japanese brush — he said he recog- 
nized the "stroke" — which happened to be 
the fact. Besides the original drawing and the 
large painting La Farge did, somewhere be- 
tween the two, a water color of " The Wolf 
Charmer" for the late William C. Whitney, 
for whom he had also at first intended the 
version in oils. Whitney, it seems, wanted to 
be his backer. La Farge told him that it made 
him think of the elephant who adopted the 
family of a heartless hen, and to take care of 
the chickens sat on them. Still, the alliance be- 
tween patron and painter might have been 
effected, but just then Whitney died. 

The anecdote carries us far from the period 
of the flower paintings and the Newport land- 
scapes, but in any case it would be necessary 
to note here, not a divergence from the cen- 
tral principles on which they were based but 
indubitably a modification of La Farge's man- 



C 14* 3 
ner. In the leisurely experiments of the fifties 
and the following decade he had achieved ex- 
quisite beauty of surface. If he had gone on 
exactly as he had begun, and, moreover, had 
narrowly pursued that special quality, we 
know just where he would have ranged him- 
self. Save for the poetic and religious mo- 
tives which were bound to pass into his work 
he would have become the Alfred Stevens of 
this country, winning fame through nothing 
more nor less than the consummate kneading 
of pigment. But, as I trust I have sufficiently 
indicated, La Farge, while appreciating the 
value of such fame to the full, was so consti- 
tuted intellectually and in all the subtleties of 
his being that he could not with any satisfac- 
tion have sought it for himself. His imagina- 
tion took a vastly wider sweep. There were 
too many other fields to conquer. Further- 
more, this time of transition was to witness his 
first excursion into mural decoration and the 
growth of his interest in glass. There is, there- 
fore, something like a movement of disloca- 
tion, gradual, scarcely perceptible, but unmis- 
takable none the less, of which one is conscious 
on taking leave of the early paintings. Differ- 
ent employments have their quiet influence 



C !45 ] 
upon the pictures that succeed them, an influ- 
ence telling simply and solely in this matter of 
surface. It is still beautiful, but, for the gour- 
met in such things, less beguiling for its own 
sake. The magic of pure painting which flour- 
ishes in the sixties but yields in the seventies 
to the broader and necessarily less lacquer-like 
texture imposed by the exigencies of wall 
painting, gives place, finally, to the manner 
illustrated by the Japanese and South Sea 
souvenirs. 

It is not a question of values but of dif- 
ferences, and, indeed, the later work, if it 
lacks the curious bloom of the first paintings, 
has other rich sources of charm and is even, 
in one respect, much more powerful. La 
Farge's two famous journeys to the South 
and East gave him a firmer grasp upon light 
and air and tremendously enriched his 'color. 
His early tones have an incomparable soft- 
ness and delicacy, but I remember a flower 
piece of his, a study of the flaming Hibiscus 
found in the Society Islands, which gave one 
a new and almost startling sense of what he 
could do when he had tasted the hot inspiration 
of the tropics. The red petals fairly blazed, 
but — and the point interestingly recalled one 



[ 146 ] 

to the continuity of La Farge's practice — the 
piercing key of his motive was kept splendidly 
in hand, being modulated down through depths 
of rich green foliage into peaceful shadows. 
The old instinct for perfect balance remained, 
but how, under such overwhelming skies, 
could even La Farge have stopped to recap- 
ture the fragile tenderness of his early studies, 
supposing for a moment that he might have 
thought it worth while? Light, magnificent 
light, intoxicated him and drove him to a 
swifter and bolder notation of the things he 
saw. His first impression on his arrival in Ja- 
pan in the summer of 1886 is of the "splen- 
dour of light/' of which he never tires. "It is 
as if the sky, in its variations, were the great 
subject of the drama we are looking at, or at 
least its great chorus. The beauty of the light 
and of the air is what I should like to describe, 
but it is almost like trying to account for one's 
own mood — like describing the key in which 
one plays. " Whether he is working in oils or 
in water colors — and he used both mediums 
on his travels — he seizes with the same skill, 
the same feeling for its diaphanous quality, the 
glory of light. His color, thus bathed and 
interpenetrated, grows purer, subtler, some- 



C !47 3 
times more clangorous and always more beau- 
tiful. We miss the old bloom but we do not 
regret it. 

For one thing, La Farge never more au- 
thoritatively put technique in its place as a 
means to an end than in his Oriental and Pa- 
cific studies. When he made those journeys 
we may be sure that it was not merely to feed 
the lust of the eye but to come to close quar- 
ters with all the ways of foreign and notably 
mysterious peoples, barbaric in the Fiji Islands 
or thereabouts, and in the East possessing a 
civilization equally different from anything to 
which he was accustomed. For many a " travel 
note" in modern art a photograph might 
easily be substituted. La Farge on his travels 
made his lightest sketch a thing of enchanting 
originality. As through some curious wave of 
inner illumination you are made aware among 
his pictures not simply of mountain and valley, 
of sea and sky, but of the very genius of a far 
scene. When he painted "The Hereditary As- 
sassins of King Malietoa"he made manifest 
all that was uncanny about those personages. 
When, in Japan, he portrayed " The Priest of 
Idzumo Watching at Dawn for the Soul of 
the Dragon Which Comes in With the May 



C 148 3 

Tides," you shared the strange vigil of the 
bizarre figure on the seashore. And, while La 
Farge's affair with his picturesque models, who 
were going so naturally about one business or 
other incredible to any Western mind save a 
mind like his, was thus profoundly an affair of 
interpretation, he never forgot that the mere 
facts observed were but substances and alloys 
to be thrown into the furnace of his art and 
there fused into a unit of design. I turn to 
one more of his South Sea impressions, typical 
of his constructive habit. It is a picture of a 
ford on the Tautira River, the record of an 
incident of no particular importance. Three 
women are crossing the ford. One of them 
stands in the shallows on the farther side, 
a dimly outlined figure. The second is just 
striking out, and shows only her head and 
shoulders above the water. The third comes 
running down the bank, apparently to take 
the plunge a moment later. The action repre- 
sented is artlessness itself. But La Farge gets 
an indescribable and very beautiful sequence 
of movement out of his three figures. He paints 
their graceful forms against a luxuriant back- 
ground, above which rise purple peaks, and 
he draws all of the wild beauty of the scene 



[ 149 ] 

into a pictorial harmony so simple, and, withal, 
having such an air of finality about it, that the 
thing seems invented until you realize its su- 
perb truth. In his analysis of Delacroix in 
"The Higher Life in Art " he has a pas- 
sage which is apposite to our present subject. 
Speaking of the great problem of movement 
in art he says : — 

"As with Rodin, who is a great example, as 
with Barye, Delacroix's friend, as with the 
Greeks, as with the greater men of all time, 
except the present, so Delacroix felt the un- 
expressed rule that the human being never 
moves free in space, but always, being an ani- 
mal, in relation to the place where he is, to the 
people around him, to innumerable influences 
of light, and air, wind, footing, and the possi- 
bility of touching others. This is the absolute 
contradiction of the studio painting, however 
dignified, where the figure is free from any 
interruption, and nobody will run against it." 

The principle was as the breath of life to 
his own work. His use of it accounts for the 
amazing vitality and naturalness of his nume- 
rous studies of South Sea dancers and it is im- 
plicit also in his pictures of figures nominally 
immobile. One such is a certain painting of 



chiefs in war dress, another Fijian note. The 
seated soldiers in this composition are, if you 
like, doing nothing at all. They are merely 
posed in a double row — if, again, you so 
choose to consider them — in order that the 
artist might make his sketch. But he makes 
more than a sketch. His sitters are types and 
in their lovely landscape the suggestion they 
convey is as of a page from Fijian life. There 
is something dark and sinister about the 
group. There is nothing of the company of 
docile models, posing as so many types of 
form and color. There is everything of a 
curious state of savagery, of men in whose 
traits and demeanor you recognize the marks 
of a peculiar social state. So it is with all of 
La Farge's exotic studies, exotic for us but 
not for him, for it always has seemed to me 
that he was completely and restfully at home 
in the lands of the lotus-eater, amongst long- 
robed, suave Japanese priests or amongst the 
stalwart chiefs and laughing maidens of the 
Pacific. It is with a wrench that we retrace 
our steps to follow him upon the busy path 
of the mural painter, collaborating with archi- 
tects, facing conditions of the most prac- 
tical nature, and adapting his wayward, ad- 



Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai 



C 151 ] 
venturous genius to the discipline of per- 
haps the most exacting of all the arts of de- 
sign. 

As usual with him the new opportunity 
was not deliberately sought but arose in slow, 
inevitable fashion out of his personal associa- 
tions and out of the intellectual processes 
which were always extending his horizon. I 
lay stress upon the point, for one of the most in- 
teresting and revealing things about La Farge 
is his freedom from anything like malice 
aforethought, from preconceived resolution, 
in his different undertakings. He was a man 
of inspiration, not necessarily sudden leaps 
into new spheres, but ventures implying the 
guidance of that "familiar" so often en- 
countered in the history of genius. He goes 
whole-heartedly along through one channel 
of endeavor and then, when the appointed 
time comes, he invades another. I say "in- 
vades," for at these moments you feel that he 
has had all along just the right preparation 
and is somehow equipped for whatever re- 
sponsibilities may befall. His assumption of 
those of the mural decorator dates from the 
seventies, not many years after his second 
journey abroad, but in origin it is traceable to 



[ 152 ] 

an earlier date, to old studies and to old friend- 
ships. It is to the latter especially that he re- 
fers in the recollections that bear upon his 
work in Trinity Church at Boston, the scene 
of his first dealings with large wall spaces. 
They go back to the formation of his intimacy 
with the architect of that building: — 

" I had known H. H. Richardson for some 
few years, meeting him first in George Post's 
office. George introduced him as a clever man 
who would make his mark. He was then de- 
signing something of his own, a Gothic church 
based upon a rather strict view of Gothic prin- 
ciples. He knew almost nothing of Gothic, 
being fresh from < Beaux Arts' of the worst 
possible kind, but the thing was striking and 
as I came out I said to Post, 'That looks 
something like the beginning of genius.' Just 
before his death, years afterwards, Richardson 
reproached me for my admiration of his draw- 
ing, which had rankled, apparently, all those 
years. As we know, he became a type of Ro- 
manesque and he told me that the thing had 
been < damned bad/ and how could I have ad- 
mired it? I told him with my usual frankness 
that I thought so too; but what I had told Post 
was that he was probably a genius, which has 



C 153 3 
nothing to do with accuracy of design in a 
style of which one is ignorant. 

"We saw a good deal of each other, as 
any men might who had a former Parisian 
habit. The American architects had not yet 
begun experience of the Ecole des Beaux 
Arts, but Richardson had had it in full, and 
had earned his living in the offices of French 
architects, so that he knew the whole machine. 
He told me once, in contempt for the past, 
that if he had enough offices he could build 
from New York to New Orleans without 
giving himself any trouble except to order 
the designs. And he had been a militant, 
joining the young men who hissed away 
Viollet-le-Duc from his lectures, from a mix- 
ture of anti-Gothic and anti-Napoleon the 
Third opinions. But the meaning of all these 
things did not trouble his mind once the sea 
was crossed. Then he took up the grind here, 
which was severe, and soon was fairly suc- 
cessful. I forget how the first work went on. 
Then began his tendency towards the Ro- 
manesque, but nothing serious, so that when 
he competed in the most courageous way, 
with Dick Hunt, among others, for Trinity 
Church, and won, he had, as yet, not taken 



C 154 ] 
hold seriously of the Romanesque problem. 
He designed a building which was intelligent 
but not what could be done and especially 
wanting in any historical character. Gradually 
he felt it. We spent many hours together. 
He was then at Staten Island, a married man, 
and glad to give me long day and night hospi- 
tality. Like many other great men he was a 
mighty eater and drinker — a pitcher of milk, 
a pitcher of champagne, a pitcher of water — 
everything was done on a large scale and his 
work is of that kind. He used to speak of 
* VechelUy which he did not understand, unless 
perhaps in the last few months of his life, 
when he had been in Spain. I was able to pro- 
pose to Richardson to change entirely the 
character of his building, so far at least as ex- 
ternals, which in this case would not be sepa- 
rated from the great basis of plan, etc. I 
brought him photographs of the Spanish Ro- 
manesque churches, Avila, and so forth, of 
which I had a special collection, made for 
Queen Victoria during her visit. Meanwhile, 
Richardson built the Brattle Street church." 

Regarding this church La Farge had a pic- 
turesque association, relating to the relief high 
up on the tower which was carried out by Bar- 



C 155 ] 

tholdi. The French sculptor had come to this 
country just after Vannee terrible, to work 
on his statue of Liberty Enlightening the 
World. This had been planned before the 
Franco-Prussian war by a committee anxious 
to make some political demonstration of 
French Republicans to the United States, 
which country they felt to be in some dan- 
gerous relation to the plans of Napoleon III. 
He produced the model for the present statue 
in La Farge's studio and there he made the ac- 
quaintance of Richardson. "They were soon 
friends," writes LaFarge, "which makes all 
the prettier a little speech of Richardson's to 
Bartholdi when Bartholdi, naturally interested 
in Richardson's long stay in France, inquired 
if he did not like the French, and Richard- 
son replied, <No, not at all.' One of the best 
known sculptors in the country had been asked 
to carry out the relief for the Brattle Street 
church, and he had declined it, because in his 
opinion it might level him to the position of a 
stone-cutter and for the public it would not 
look well. Hence Bartholdi was asked and was 
only too glad to have the fun of preparing the 
models in France, to be carried out here later. 
In the relief as it was put up were several por- 



[ 156 ] 

traits, including those of Richardson and my- 
self.' ' But we must return to Trinity Church. 

In the early seventies La Farge's hold upon 
landscape had not seemed to be slackening. 
The « Paradise Valley" had won him honor. 
But even then, he said, he had "become 
tempted and then drawn to work in the lines 
of architecture," and presently the decisive 
step was taken : — 

"It was thus that I came to decorate Trinity 
Church, Boston, which was being built by my 
friend Richardson, who believed in me without 
having much proof of what I could do in that 
way. The early part of September, 1876, was 
the time at which the architect gave me first 
notice of the work to be done and the first of 
January was to be the final end. That was to 
include the entire building, from the first talk to 
the finished work. The building, as you know, 
was not finished then, there being no roof on 
part of it, nor windows, nor possible scaffold- 
ing, nor designs that were accurate. There 
were also no people. I managed to get an ex- 
tension of several weeks so that February saw 
the work through. The designs that were to 
be painted in the day had often to be made on 
the previous night. We had to enlist anyone. 



. . . The amusing point to me was the appli- 
cation of certain Romanesque originals to the 
spans I had before me and the introduction of 
a great deal of very fine and calculated detail 
into passages of necessary simplicity, and also 
the doing of this at a gallop. I think that in one 
space, fifteen feet square, there is not more 
than three or four days' work, and everything 
was done in that way, but with extreme care, 
a care I have very rarely seen repeated in any 
modern work by anybody, unless perhaps we 
take some of the work of Mr. Sargent, on 
which he has spent years and years of careful 
thought and elaboration. Part of my work, you 
know, is hidden by the facing of the organ at 
the west end, so that that elaboration is hid- 
den and the lines of my general composition 
are more or less destroyed. So of course all 
through the building the new additions are not 
connected with the old lines. 

"I must tell you about the jamboree in 
which we carried out the work — the windows 
open, in winter; four of the workmen killed 
by the tiles dropping down from the roof 
inside; we working with our overcoats and 
gloves, unable to use the scaffoldings very 
often because the other workmen, masons, 



carpenters, tilers, etc. who were not painters, 
had them. And even Phillips Brooks, thank 
God, as I told him, came near being killed by 
a plank which had dropped down from one 
hundred feet above his head. I thanked the 
Lord because then the committee put in an 
extra man, to watch the hole through which 
the planks and tiles dropped on poor devils 
and future bishops." 

The absolute novelty of the undertaking 
had, of course, much to do with these unto- 
ward conditions. American mural decoration 
was then in the process of being born, the only 
contemporary of La Farge's making any seri- 
ous contribution to it being his old friend Wil- 
liam Hunt, who, at just about that time, was to 
do his interesting work in the Capitol at Al- 
bany. There were clever artists to be got hold 
of as assistants, after all, but they had to be 
trained. That they were trained by him and 
were in the fullest sense assistants, subject to 
his control, was a matter on which La Farge 
liked a clear understanding. He was gener- 
osity itself in appreciation of what these men 
did to enable him to execute his commission 
in so ridiculously short a time ; he remem- 
bered their services, as he valued their abili- 



C 159 3 
ties. But I remember his indignation when on 
the death of Francis Lathrop there got into 
print a « crazy statement/' as he described it 
to me, which assigned to that admirable artist 
a far more constructive share in the work at 
Trinity than had actually been his. La Farge 
straightway sent a correction to the journal in 
error, and, writing to me about it to ask that I 
would establish the record, he said, " It is a 
bore, but I wish the fact known that I had the 
charge of ten to fifteen artists, Frank Millet, 
George Maynard, John Du Fais, Francis 
Lathrop, Sidney L. Smith, George L. Rose, 
etc. who did exactly what I wanted as far as 
they knew how." 

The astonishing thing is that in spite of the 
novelty of his task, the physical handicaps 
— including ill-health — and the demon of 
hurry at his elbow, La Farge nevertheless 
gave fair unity to his large scheme. Strictly 
speaking, however, that was not, at that mo- 
ment, the all-important point. It would no 
doubt have been better if he could have had 
more time and had established then a thor- 
oughly organic conception of mural painting. 
But it was a momentous achievement simply 
to have demonstrated the power and beauty 



C l6 ° ] 

of the mere idea of wall painting. La Farge 
could do this because he could communicate 
to his designs the compelling quality of style, 
and, besides, the vitalizing force of mind and 
imagination. There are merits of sheer color 
in the Trinity paintings, as there are merits 
of the shrewd adjustment of painted detail to 
the architectural whole ; but most significant 
of all in their historical aspect are the grand 
hieratic figures set upon the walls, solemn 
presences, which loom like living prophets in 
the richly Romanesque interior, and the beau- 
tiful angels, who have an even more formally 
decorative purpose but possess also a grace- 
ful, light charm. La Farge might fall short 
of perfection in this very ambitious attempt, 
thanks to no fault of his own, but it was 
immediately apparent that if any American 
painter could reach that goal in mural deco- 
ration he was the man. 

From that time onward to the day of his 
death he was the recognized leader in work 
of this character, and important commissions 
rapidly succeeded one another. I have no in- 
tention of traversing them all, — the beauti- 
ful panels in the Church of the Incarnation 
in New York, those others for St. Thomas's 



1 161 3 

Church in the same city which were not long 
ago destroyed by fire, the exquisite decora- 
tions, " Music " and " Drama," in the music 
room of the New York house of the Hon. 
Whitelaw Reid, and many other noble pro- 
ductions. The list is far too long. Further- 
more, all of this work was quietly carrying 
him on to an impressive culmination, the crys- 
tallization of his decorative genius in the 
monumental forms characteristic of the great 
masters in all ages. La Farge's lyrical vein 
was ineradicable. When he came to paint the 
Reid decorations, in the eighties, his early 
sensitiveness to landscape was revived in full 
force and he placed amid sylvan surroundings 
figures of a poetic sentiment and grace which 
would suggest Watteau, if it were not that 
they bear the stamp of La Farge's fuller, 
statelier, and more realistic sense of form. 
But in that very period he was working out 
one of his profoundest problems, that of 
* ' The Ascension ' ' for the church of that name 
in New York. In one of his letters he tells 
me how he arrived at the solution which we 
know : — 

"In the picture of 'The Ascension' in the 
Tenth Street church there were some very 



curious problems. The clergyman had liked 
a drawing which I had made many years be- 
fore, let us say some thirty years ago, of that 
subject, with a similar grouping. This was to 
be a very narrow high window for a memo- 
rial chapel out West. It was never carried 
out; in fact it was nothing but one of those 
projects forced upon unfortunate artists by 
enthusiastic millionaires who forget almost 
immediately what their last plans had been. 
I do not even know if anything was done 
about it, but the proposed patron was inter- 
esting, owing to his having very many works 
of art, some of which were fine and the others 
not usually seen in this country even to-day 
— not that they were good. 

"Then Dr. Donald, the clergyman, hap- 
pening to see this, wished to have this long 
and narrow window carried out where you 
now see the painting ; there being a recess in 
the wall, it might be used. At that time I was 
very anxious to have Saint-Gaudens get a 
chance to do work and to show his capacity. 
Remember that I am talking of very many 
years ago. I proposed that he might, perhaps, 
be tempted to make a great bas-relief of this 
to fill that space ; but there were too many 



C l6 3 3 
reasons against it, among others those of 
money. A painting can be done, it is supposed, 
quite cheaply compared to a piece of sculp- 
ture, even if that sculpture is only in plaster at 
a few cents a foot. 

"By and by, when Stanford White took 
charge of the church, the questions came to- 
gether and it was proposed that I should paint 
the picture upon the wide space which he left 
for it. But that space was many, many times 
wider than the sketch or study and even en- 
larging the figures in enormous proportions 
would not fill it. Even now the picture is 
almost square, so that I had a problem of 
widening my space of figures and of settling 
their proportion in a given space. Nothing that 
I could do, and keep the original intention, 
would allow the change to be done to cover 
enough space, so that I proposed a frame 
which should both cut a little space, indicate 
the Gothic character of the church, and help 
what I thought I was going to do to carry out 
the painting — that was to place these figures 
in a very big landscape. The landscape I 
wished to have extremely natural, because I 
depended on it to make my figures also look 
natural and to account for the floating of some 



twenty figures or more in the air. We do not 
see this ever, as you know, but I knew that 
by a combination of the clouds and figures I 
might help this look of what the mystic peo- 
ple call levitation. 

"Of course you may well suppose that I 
studied what I could of the people who are 
swung in ropes and other arrangements across 
theatres and circuses. The question of the 
composition of the figures had to meet certain 
geometric conditions in my mind; that is to 
say, to fit a given pattern which I thought for- 
tunate in the space. I forget whether it was an 
arrangement of hexagons but I have a faint 
belief that it was, owing to the arithmetical 
figures of the proportions of the space. That 
could be settled, but my landscape, — I was 
much troubled. 

"At that moment I was asked to go to Ja- 
pan by my friend Henry Adams, and I went 
there in 1886. I had a vague belief that I 
might find there certain conditions of line 
in the mountains which might help me. Of 
course the Judean mountains were entirely out 
of question, all the more that they implied a 
given place. I kept all this in mind and on one 
given day I saw before me a space of moun- 



C l6 * 3 

tain and cloud and flat land which seemed to 
me to be what was needed. I gave up my other 
work and made thereupon a rapid but very 
careful study, so complete that the big picture 
is only a part of the amount of work put into 
the study of that afternoon. There are turns 
of the tide which allow T you at times to do an 
amount of work incredible in sober moments; 
as you know, there are very many such cases ; 
I do not understand it myself. When I re- 
turned I was still of the same mind. My stud- 
ies of separate figures were almost ready and 
all I had to do was to stretch the canvas and 
begin the work. 

« Perhaps you do not know that I got into 
great difficulties thereupon. The weight of 
such a canvas is something very great. The 
mere lead paint used to fasten it was far over 
five hundred pounds. The wall, that is to say, 
the plaster wall, was a new one, just made, 
and I felt dubious about its standing this 
weight, when, as you know, the canvas is fas- 
tened down and then pulled flat by a great 
many men. It was just as I surmised. The 
wall tumbled down as soon as the canvas was 
put up, or, rather, when the first part of it 
was fastened. They were careful about the 



C 166 ] 

next wall and I believe that it is now a safe 
one. 

"After that I only had pleasure out of my 
work. During that summer my friend Oka- 
kura spent a great deal of his time with me 
and I could paint, and then, in the intervals, 
we could talk about spiritual manifestations 
and all that beautiful wonderland which they 
have ; that is to say, the Buddhists, where the 
spiritual bodies take form and disappear again 
and the edges of the real and the imaginary 
melt. I had one objection brought up by a 
friend, a lady, who was troubled by certain 
news she had heard. That was that I had made 
these studies of clouds in a pagan country, 
while a true Episcopalian would make them, 
I suppose, in England. Otherwise I think peo- 
ple have liked this and everybody has been 
very kind about it. At a distance the picture is 
not injured, I think, by the rapidity of its exe- 
cution, only a summer and an autumn, during 
which I carried out several other large things. " 

If a painter could put into words what he 
puts upon canvas he would perhaps turn writ- 
ing man instead. La Farge naturally passes 
from the little facts connected with the genesis 
of his work to just the pleasure that he got 



C l6 ? 3 

out of it. We hear nothing of the intricate de- 
velopments which left upon his painting the 
stamp of a great creative affirmation. In that 
you read not only his insight into a sublime 
subject but his grasp upon a problem which 
was both decorative and architectural. The 
painting over the chancel in the Church of 
the Ascension fills half the height of the fairly 
lofty edifice. Its width is virtually the width of 
the nave. These dimensions it would be idle 
to state in feet and inches, but they are impor- 
tant to remember broadly, because the design 
is so well scaled to its surroundings and seems 
to spring naturally from that end of the church 
over which it presides. The architectural lines 
which meet the surface of the painting mark 
neither a frame nor an aperture in the wall. 
The richly coffered arch of gold, springing 
from pilasters as generously embellished with 
conventional ornament, seems rather like some 
natural boundary, narrowing the horizon and 
concentrating the vision upon one moving 
scene. Yet, if the eyes travel, you are aware 
of no conflict between the scene and its en- 
circling architecture; if the transition from 
one to the other is unconsciously achieved, you 
must seek the secret of the passage in the 



C l68 3 

painting and not in the arch. Then you begin 
to grasp the beauty of a perfect wall painting. 
You see the harmony between the upright 
figures in the first plane of the composition 
and the pilasters on each side. And then, as 
you are insensibly lifted by the spring of the 
golden arch, the angels who encircle the risen 
Christ seem to float in similarly soaring line. 
The central figure, as it half pauses in its 
ascension, is the pivot of the imaginative 
conception, the pivot of the arrangements of 
forms in the group of celestial worshippers, 
and, finally, the pivot of the architectural 
lines. 

Take an even more subtle point in the dis- 
position of the lines and contours in this paint- 
ing. As the spectator faces the altar he is 
dimly sensible of the forward leap of that arch 
which is reared above the aisle on each side 
of the church and nearest the chancel. The 
line is in contradiction to that of the arch above 
the painting. One comes towards you, the 
other is calculated to melt into the distance 
which is suggested by the receding angle of 
the golden arch's soffit. Now this contradic- 
tion, if left unbalanced, might prove seriously 
detrimental to the unity of the picture, so we 



C l6 9 3 
find in the latter a landscape the hills of which 
are so inclined on each side as to bring the 
curves of the entire scheme back into repose 
and symmetry. It is not easy to demonstrate 
this with mathematical precision but to look 
closely at the painting, trying to imagine the 
hills at the sides either eliminated or inclined 
toward the mountain in the middle of the 
background, is decisively to feel the force of 
the point at issue. The unity of the thing 
would instantly be endangered. I lay such 
stress upon this side of the design, not to re- 
duce its charm to a bald question of line and 
mass, but to show how much its beauty de- 
pends upon the adjustment of its parts to sur- 
rounding conditions. It is the felicity of this 
adjustment that leaves you free to approach 
the work on its imaginative and personal side, 
on the side of its color and purely sensuous 
enchantment. Yet even here the atmosphere 
of organic balance is still enveloping the pic- 
ture. The subdued light by which its lower 
portion is suffused is suited not only to the 
demands of the composition, but to the struc- 
ture and lighting of the church at that level; 
and the misty golden radiance of the upper 
half is keyed to the very note that golden 



I 170 3 

arch and clerestory windows join in produc- 
ing. 

Thus far I have traced the beauty of 
La Farge's decoration to its cooperation with 
the architectural ideas expressed in the same 
place. But it is the painter's own ideas that 
crown his work, those, and the force with 
which he makes the picture a symbol for a 
spiritual idea. In the first place he is strikingly 
original. The rough outline of the composi- 
tion was settled centuries ago for hundreds 
of masters and they were settled for him in 
the same way; yet through the subtleties of 
grouping and gesture he has escaped the 
faintest suggestion of any of his predecessors. 
If he recalls them at all it is in the sincerity 
with which he has bodied forth his idea. The 
Christ rises with thrilling dignity above the 
astonished worshippers who gaze in awe upon 
His flight, and the benignant gesture, familiar 
as it is, has yet in this modern painting a vi- 
tality for which hitherto we have had to go to 
the old Italians. Indeed, there is nothing more 
interesting about this design than its proof of 
the strength still living in sacred art when the 
painter is a man of genius as well as a finished 
craftsman. In all that makes religious art re- 



I 171 ] 
ligious this is a just equivalent for the art of 
an older faith. In the presence of the sacred 
pictures of the fourteenth and fifteenth cen- 
turies we talk of an illusion which we fear 
has since been lost, and declare that the day 
for Biblical illustration is gone by. La Farge 
gives the best possible answer to this pessi- 
mistic conclusion. Nobly designed, flooded 
with color of the deepest splendor and most 
exquisite delicacy, imbued with the spirituality 
of a high imagination, his painting puts before 
you, on the heroic scale which it demands, the 
scene which marks the culmination of our 
Christian faith. It must be a cold tempera- 
ment which could find in this uplifting crea- 
tion less of fervor, less of the power to con- 
vince, than we are willing to believe a more 
naive epoch found in its more naive produc- 
tions. 

La Farge never painted anything more 
purely beautiful than "The Ascension" and 
it might not unreasonably be taken as sum- 
ming up his qualities as a mural decorator; 
but there is one other triumph of his in this 
field upon which I wish to dwell, partly on 
account of its magnitude and even more in 
view of its intellectual and architectonic vir- 



C !7 2 ] 
tues. When Mr. Cass Gilbert designed the 
monumental State Capitol of Minnesota at 
St. Paul, some eight or nine years ago, he was 
permitted by the authorities to carry out his 
idea of completing the building in a spirit 
worthy of a great commonwealth. To this 
end he arranged for a number of mural deco- 
rations on a large scale from various hands. 
To La Farge was assigned a weighty share 
in the task. For the Supreme Court room he 
was commissioned to execute four paintings, 
filling spacious lunettes. In the first of these 
he dealt with "The Moral and Divine Law," 
his central figure being Moses kneeling on 
Mount Sinai. In the second lunette he con- 
cerned himself with " The Relation of the 
Individual to the State," representing a dis- 
cussion between Socrates and his friends. The 
next painting in the series treats of "The Re- 
cording of Precedents " and Confucius domi- 
nates here, busied with his pupils over the 
collation and transcription of documents. Fi- 
nally, in commemoration of "The Adjust- 
ment of Conflicting Interests," the artist 
shows Count Raymond of Toulouse swearing 
at the altar, in the presence of ecclesiastical 
and civic dignitaries, to observe the liberties 



C x 73 ] 
of the city. « In each one of these four paint- 
ings/' says La Farge, in a brief statement 
printed at the time, " the intention has been to 
give to each separate work the sense of a 
special and different historical moment. Con- 
sequently of a very different attitude of mind 
in the actors of each drama. For this purpose, 
also, differing lights and colors for each pic- 
ture." Magnificently he rose to the height of 
his great argument. In the "Moses," wherein 
" the forces of nature and of the human con- 
science are meant to be typified," he pro- 
duced a masterpiece of creative art worthy 
of the Renaissance in its pregnant simplicity. 
The scene represented in this decoration is 
one of solemn grandeur. Looming up in the 
centre of it is a rocky eminence of tawny 
hues, save where a few natural growths bring 
some green into the scheme. On the left the 
landscape falls as though into an abyss, and 
the eye travels over sinister peaks, half veiled 
in purple vapors, until a rift in the sky flings 
golden light upon the mountain. On the high- 
est plane in the composition Moses kneels, a 
rough-hewn, massy, sculptural figure, with 
the austere profile of his face partially con- 
cealed by arms extended in prayer. This 



[ 174 ] 

figure is full of meaning. One is especially 
struck by the dignity of the head and the 
mute eloquence of the arms and hands. But 
the entire body is, indeed, obviously under 
the stress of a supernatural emotion. It is easy 
to imagine how theatrical or academic it 
might have become in the hands of an ordi- 
nary painter. With La Farge the skilful han- 
dling of form and drapery, admirable in itself, 
is, after all, only a means to an end. His main 
point is to make us feel that he has portrayed 
a great man in a moment of supreme exalta- 
tion, and he carries absolute conviction. On 
the lower slopes of the mount, the kneeling 
figure of Aaron is shown, and, towering 
above him, every inch a man, is Joshua, warn- 
ing the people from the scene. Fire, not in 
sharp flames but in rosy billows, gives a 
ghastly splendor to the painting. In the 
broad blocking out of his composition, and in 
the atmosphere communicated to it, La Farge 
works on a lofty plane ; he is majestic and 
sacerdotal, introducing us into a sort of pri- 
meval world, where man recognizes in awe 
and trembling the nearness of Divinity. 

In illustrating "The Relation of the Indi- 
vidual to the State" he took his scene from 



[ 175 n 

that opening book of the "Republic" in which 
Socrates is represented as engaged in discus- 
sion with friends in the circle of Polemarchus. 
"In this painting," he says in the leaflet al- 
ready cited, "there has been no strict inten- 
tion of giving an adequate, and therefore, 
impossible historical representation of some- 
thing which may never have happened. But 
there has been a wish to convey, in a typical 
manner, the serenity and good nature which 
is the note of the famous book and of Greek 
thought and philosophy." Obviously, then, 
there is no occasion for dwelling on the per- 
sonal significance, such as it is, of those with 
whom Socrates is conversing. Details are no- 
thing; the broad idea of Socrates on "the 
interdependence of man," is everything. Yet 
in the very moment of reading La Farge's dis- 
claimer of a pedantically historical intention, 
we are struck, as we raise our eyes to the 
painting, with a sense of the familiar human 
reality he has given to something which, as he 
says, "may never have happened." This is a 
scene from Plato. It is, as vividly, a scene 
from Greek life. Plato himself sketches the 
matter with inimitable realism. When we 
meet Socrates on the threshold of the "Re- 



I 176] 

public," he is not simply the philosopher but 
the curious traveller, relishing the delight to 
the eye provided by the Bendidean festival. 
The incident of his encounter with the man 
who wished to hold him in talk is photo- 
graphed for us as with a modern camera. 
Says Socrates, in Jowett's version: — 

" When we had finished our prayers and 
viewed the spectacle, we turned in the direc- 
tion of the city; and at that instant Pole- 
marchus, the son of Cephalus, chanced to 
catch sight of us from a distance as we were 
starting on our way home, and told his ser- 
vant to run and bid us wait for him. The ser- 
vant took hold of me by the cloak behind, and 
said: 'Polemarchus desires you to wait/ I 
turned round and asked him where his master 
was. < There he is,' said the youth, * coming 
after you if you will only wait.' " 

In this passage, and in all that follows to 
show how Socrates was prevailed upon to turn 
his steps toward the house of Cephalus, we 
are carried into the very intimacy of Greek 
society, we are conscious of its sights and 
sounds, and breathe its bland airs. La Farge 
does what Plato does and actually re-creates 
for us the beautiful ancient world. Classical 



C 177 ] 
antiquity is not, for him, the cold, skeletonized 
affair which has satisfied so many " archaeo- 
logical" painters. He brings an architectural 
motive into his composition in the marble ex- 
hedra within whose limits his principal figures 
are grouped, and, no doubt, in painting So- 
crates, he was influenced by memories of 
Greek plastic art. But he portrayed the phil- 
osopher and his friends as men first and types 
of the ancient world afterward. Their easy 
attitudes are significant of his aim, from those 
of the three leading figures to the casual, 
mildly interested pose of the slave girl who 
leans on the parapet in the foreground. Equally 
effective in creating a natural impression is 
the atmosphere in which the whole scene is 
drenched, an atmosphere borrowing much 
from the leafage in the background and even 
more from the landscape filling the distant 
planes. 

The color is superb, handled in many pas- 
sages with great delicacy, but, on the whole, 
with a feeling for broad and weighty tones. 
The masses of light marble in the scene are 
suffused with a pinkish glow. Above them the 
dark green of the trees is flecked with tawny 
tints and beyond, where La Farge recovered 



[ 178 ] 
the charioteer of one of his early drawings, the 
red tunic of the driver and the white coats of 
the horses tell sharply against the greens and 
purples of the landscape. The central figure, 
one of the listeners, is clothed in red ; Socrates 
wears a robe in which notes of violet and white 
commingle ; and his seated friend, to whom he 
more particularly addresses himself, is swathed 
in draperies of a greenish, bronze-like yellow, 
relieved by stuff of a darker hue. The shoul- 
ders of a youth who sits with his back toward 
the spectator are wrapped in material of tour- 
quoise blue and the girl has touches of violet 
and gray-white in her dress. The rose color of 
the sweetbriar brings still another accent of 
sensuous charm into the scene, where a vine 
clambers over the exhedra. As a colorist La 
Farge adheres to the severe harmony of his 
whole plan but everywhere shows his charac- 
teristic subtlety and fineness. 

It was preeminently in the role of a colorist 
that La Farge illuminated the big spaces of his 
room at St. Paul, but I prefer to terminate 
this partial description of the work that he did 
there with some remarks on "The Recording 
of Precedents,' ' the composition dedicated to 
Confucius, as I was privileged to see it in the 



C 179 3 
cartoon. The cartoon as he used it was not 
so much a preliminary study, to be modified 
under the influence of mood as the process 
of actual painting was carried on, but a true 
foundation, prepared for the superimposition 
of pigment just as the foundation of a building 
is prepared for the walls. If he was a brilliant 
colorist he was also a brilliant draughtsman 
and a master of design. The Orientals he 
brought together in the grove of Confucius 
were beautifully drawn at the first stage of 
the work and then, as later, their expressions, 
attitudes, and relations to one another disclosed 
the quality separating the creative artist from 
the facile but superficial practitioner of pic- 
torial narrative. The figures were true types 
of eastern intellectuality and spirituality and 
as they sat absorbed in their devotional work 
in a green silence they appealed to me at once 
by the intimacy of their grouping and by the 
dignity of the spectacle they presented. De- 
claring their purpose, not in obvious ways, but 
in the indescribable manner signifying a move- 
ment of the mind expressed in a movement 
of the body, the pose of a head, the play of 
a hand, those figures made it plain that they 
were engaged upon matters of grave moment. 



[ i8o 3 

Though the color was to add so much more its 
absence was really a benefit to the observer, 
for in the strokes of charcoal and crayon he 
could see the very bones of the fabric and the 
better appreciate La Farge's articulation of 
them. One could see what an affair of con- 
struction a great work of art actually is, how 
the ultimate glowing picture rests upon a basis 
of truth rigidly defined. Every tangible factor 
in the composition was carefully set forth. It 
was not that the drawing was minutely re- 
alistic but rather that the essentials of form 
which the artist wished to express were 
grasped with insight and effectively stated. 
There was no boggling over a difficulty. 
There were no obscurities anywhere. The 
elements in the design were simply reduced 
to their simplest and strongest terms. It was 
done, moreover, with wonderful breadth, the 
details being fused together into an imposing 
whole. The line was full and rich. The model- 
ling had subtlety and power. You felt that the 
color would come in inevitable sequence, like 
an integument for a body already having an 
animated existence. 

La Farge was amused by the puzzlement 
of some of his friends over his mode of work. 



C 181 ] 

They could not always understand his not 
making quantities of studies in color before 
he laid out his cartoon, but, as he said to me, 
the preliminary work in black and white was 
equally important with that which was to fol- 
low. Moreover, in the color stage there were 
bound to be some modifications, and, said 
he, "you don't start with your modifications." 
When he was painting the decoration to which 
I have just referred he indulged himself in a 
playful comment on this subject. Confucius is 
reading from a scroll and on this La Farge got 
Okakura to help him inscribe in Chinese char- 
acters one of the Sage's sayings, "First the 
white, and then the color on top." He loved 
to talk about Confucius, whom he had found 
as interesting as a novel when he was study- 
ing him with Okakura's help, and he told me 
an odd story of what then happened to him. 
He painted another Confucius in one of the 
panels which he placed in the Court House at 
Baltimore and for purely decorative reasons 
he wanted a perpendicular mass in the centre 
of it. Finally, he thought of putting a white 
curtain behind Confucius to shield him from 
the air as he sat, after his wont, beneath a fa- 
vorite tree. Okakura, coming in, was greatly 



C l82 3 

astonished at La Farge's scholarship and told 
him that Confucius had various names, one of 
them being the Man of the Curtain. But the 
artist had only been solving a technical prob- 
lem. He recalled the story of Confucius one 
day making a little music, as he always did, 
before he began work. A disciple said to him, 
" That was not like you ; it sounded so cruel." 
The master replied that he had seen a rat in 
the grass which a cat had killed, and, said he, 
"The cruelty got into my music." "There," 
remarked La Farge, "you have your modern 
music. What you see and feel, what goes on 
about you, goes into your work." It is with a 
sense of his own subjection to that law of hu- 
man experience that we leave him as a painter, 
pouring into all that he did the abounding sub- 
stance of his nature and his life. 



VI 
GLASS 

LA FARGE had the pride of an inventor 
in his glass. He knew that where that was 
concerned he had had no predecessors in 
America, that none of his numerous followers 
had ever quite rivalled him or was likely to 
do so, and he knew, finally, that his windows 
had done more than anything else to spread his 
fame abroad. One afternoon in Paris I sat 
with Ary Renan and reasoned with him to the 
best of my ability, trying to show him that 
the art of America did not consist, entirely and 
everlastingly, of the work of those few paint- 
ers who had expatriated themselves and given 
away their birthright for a mess of Salon pot- 
tage. Of men like Winslow Homer he ap- 
peared never to have heard, and of La Farge's 
pictures and decorations he had only the ha- 
ziest idea. But he knew all about La Farge's 
glass ; on that point he was quite clear. Had 
not the French government bestowed the in- 
signia of the Legion of Honor upon the 
American artist, when he exhibited the Wat- 



C 184 3 

son Memorial window at the Paris Exposi- 
tion in 1889? Not content with awarding a 
medal of the first class to that piece of work 
the artists of the jury paid him this tribute in 
their report : 

"His work cannot be fully gauged here, 
where a single window represents a name the 
most celebrated and widely known in our 
Sister Republic. He is the great innovator, 
the inventor of opaline glass. He has created 
in all its details an art unknown before, an en- 
tirely new industry, and in a country without 
tradition he will begin one followed by thou- 
sands of pupils filled with the same respect 
for him that we have ourselves for our own 
masters. To share in this respect is the high- 
est praise that we can give to this great artist." 

I think that La Farge valued these words 
and his affiliation to the Legion of Honor above 
almost any of the numerous other rewards 
that his career had brought him. In the first 
place, while the point has nothing to do with 
the action of the jury, there was in the episode 
an unspoken recognition of a tie of blood ; he 
liked to feel that officially, in a sense, he was 
now a Frenchman, too; and then, of course, 
it was consoling to have his fruitful labors as 



The Peacock Window 






* ■ • ' fcgi ML * -- 




0/V&U0A6 6yu$&fan/j£2- 3fatae> 



C l8 5 3 

a pioneer thus ratified before the world at the 
very focus of the world's artistic endeavors. 
There was something magisterial about his 
attitude toward glass, like that of the founder 
of a great movement in the sphere of purely 
practical things, or even like that of a com- 
mander who had won crucial battles and 
was thereafter in a position to assert himself. 
Self-assertion was, to be sure, abhorrent to 
La Farge's nature, but when he spoke on glass 
he spoke ex cathedra — and he knew it. He 
spoke and he wrote with some copiousness on 
the subject and I might proceed at once to 
cite passages in which he gathered up the 
threads of experience, but not all of his formal 
communications had the charm of his intimate 
speech and accordingly I tell the story of his 
beginnings in glass very much as he told it 
to me. 

They flowed, he said, from very practical 
causes. Sometime in the seventies, when he 
was just back from England, he found that he 
could not sell his pictures. Durand-Ruel had 
proposed to exploit his work in Paris and 
London, looking after his interests much as he 
had looked after those of Monet and the other 
Impressionists, sending his pictures to shows, 



urging them upon collectors, and, in general, 
" pushing him." The eminent dealer thought 
that in five years or so he could "make a 
market" and get for La Farge prices equal to 
those which he obtained in America, when he 
sold his pictures at all. The scheme had its ad- 
vantages, and those not merely of a financial 
order. To it he owed his first real public 
triumph. Durand-Ruel had a show in London 
and hung a landscape of La Farge's, one of 
his Newport studies, " The Last Valley," be- 
tween a Rousseau and a Delacroix. It held its 
own against that stern test. But the artistic 
success did n't pay bills ; at home he was 
making practically nothing out of his pictures, 
and so he was much interested when his friend 
Van Brunt, of the firm of architects, Ware 
and Van Brunt, proposed his doing one of the 
windows for Memorial Hall at Harvard. 

He was the more in the mood for this ven- 
ture because, for some five or six months in 
England, his interest in glass had been stimu- 
lated by intercourse with the pre-Raphaelite 
Brotherhood. He had vivid memories of the 
band. Burne-Jones was interesting, but there 
were queer blank walls in his make-up that 
you bumped your head against. Rossetti was 



C 187 ] 
unmistakably the bigger man, much more 
exciting to know. He made you feel that 
whether his painting or poetry "came off" or 
not it was the real thing. La Farge saw, per- 
haps, more of Ford Madox Brown than of any 
of the others and preserved a special fondness 
for him. Brown was peculiarly friendly to the 
American down to the end of his life. Well, 
living amongst the pre-Raphaelites and seeing 
all their enthusiasm over stained glass he was 
in the very vein to execute Van Brunt's com- 
mission. But he could not satisfy himself, and 
when the window was finished he would not 
allow it to be put up ; he forthwith destroyed 
it. This was not, however, a confession of de- 
feat. Having got interested he kept at it, de- 
spite heart-breaking discouragements. Good 
glass was almost unobtainable. Powell, an 
English manufacturer in great vogue, could 
only send over here a few limited " palettes. " 
And just then the gods smiled. La Farge was 
in bed, getting over an illness, and pottering 
with designs of one sort or another, when he 
glanced at the trifling receptacle on the toilet 
table containing his tooth-powder, a thing of 
cheap colored glass, through which, however, 
at that psychological moment, the light was 



C l88 3 

sending some transforming rays. In an in- 
stant he divined immeasurable possibilities 
and saw ahead of him the opalescent glass 
which he was before very long to develop. As 
soon as he got well and on his feet again he 
looked about him for the means of carrying 
out his experiments. Over in Brooklyn he ran 
to earth a Luxembourg glass-maker, with 
whom he would sit drinking beer and talking 
until he had got him interested in his plans and 
committed to a share in them. Thenceforth 
things went rapidly better and better. Having 
done over again the big Harvard window for 
Van Brunt he undertook more work for the 
same architect, in private houses, and pres- 
ently made for McKim a window which 
seemed to put the seal upon all his efforts. 
This was one for the house of Dr. Richard 
H. Derby. The pattern in it he took from a 
carpet in one of the illustrations of the " Hyp- 
nerotomachia," borrowing for the purpose 
from Charles Eliot Norton the rare copy of 
the book which is now in the possession of 
Mr. Francis Bullard of Boston. All the archi- 
tects were surprised at his design, and, to La 
Farge's huge entertainment, never guessed 
its Renaissance origin. The window was in 



C l8 9 1 
every way a great success and when La Farge 
told me this, some three years ago, he still re- 
garded it as one of his best performances. It is 
now, by the way, in Dr. Derby's house in 
Maine. 

By the time he died La Farge had made 
several thousand windows, of all sizes and 
kinds, little windows that counted as unobtru- 
sive notes in decorative schemes and outstand- 
ing designs which approximate in scale and in 
pictorial interest to the standard he erected 
in mural painting. An immense amount of 
energy went to the development of this body 
of work, which involved not only the produc- 
tion of glass and the making of designs but the 
training up of a new type of workman and the 
incessant supervision of affairs in the shop. It 
is not surprising that through some of these 
years painting was almost totally abandoned ; 
but the time came when La Farge not only 
took it up again but used his brush on the 
large mural decorations we have traversed. 
One marvels how a man so frequently broken 
down by illness as he was ever contrived to 
master the little cosmos in which he lived. It 
was, of course, his genius that pulled him 
through, his passionate delight in work, so 



[ 190 ] 
that fatigue could never wear him down, and 
that curious spiritual conviction of having a 
mission, an inspiration, and the ability to re- 
alize it, which buoys the great artist up and 
sustains him where lesser men would fall. 

In the all too brief interpretation of La 
Farge by Mr. Henry Adams, upon which I 
drew in my first chapter, there is a passage 
which delicately enforces the predestination of 
his friend to greatness in glass, as one taking 
up by right a heritage denied to all other 
modern craftsmen. They met in Paris in the 
fall of 1899, and one of the places they vis- 
ited together was Chartres, the shrine of the 
worker in glass. Mr. Adams thus paints La 
Farge in the cathedral whose glory owes so 
much to his spiritual forefathers : — 

" With the relative value of La Farge's 
glass in the history of glass-decoration, 
Adams was too ignorant to meddle, and as 
a rule artists were if possible more ignorant 
than he ; but whatever it was, it led him back 
to the twelfth century and to Chartres where 
La Farge not only felt at home, but felt a sort 
of ownership. No other American had a right 
there, unless he too were a member of the 
Church and worked in glass. Adams himself 



C w 3 

was an interloper, but long habit led La Farge 
to resign himself to Adams as one who meant 
well though deplorably Bostonian; while 
Adams though near sixty years old before 
he knew anything either of glass or of Char- 
tres, asked no better than to learn, and only 
La Farge could help him, for he knew enough 
at least to see that La Farge alone could use 
glass like a thirteenth-century artist. In Eu- 
rope the art had been dead for centuries, and 
modern glass was pitiable. Even La Farge 
felt the early glass rather as a document than 
as a historical emotion, and in hundreds of 
windows at Chartres and Bourges and Paris, 
Adams knew barely one or two that were 
meant to hold their own against a color- 
scheme so strong as his." 

It was his color again, and even more than 
in his mural painting, that proclaimed La 
Farge's authority in glass, his kinship with 
the old masters ; but there was an element in 
the situation, equally indispensable, which I 
can only describe as the instinct of the artist 
for the workshop. He had the craftsman's 
hand, which must touch and mould substances. 
When he designed a window he built it in the 
fullest sense of the term. We have noted the 



C ^2 3 

importance he attached to the deeply pon- 
dered elaboration of a cartoon for a wall paint- 
ing. It was the same in his work in glass and 
it disappointed him when, even among archi- 
tects, the fundamental construction of one of 
his windows missed appreciation. He sent me 
some photographs exhibiting a window before 
the stage of color and wrote : "The manner 
by which I build a window usually conceals 
the inside skeleton and I am often supposed 
to begin upside down. Two years ago I had 
great difficulty in making one of our best 
known architects understand — if indeed he 
did understand or believe — that I did not be- 
gin my painting by a color sketch, any more 
than he did one of his big buildings. Because 
I happen to be sensitive to color he supposed 
that I must not attend to drawing. It occurred 
to me that it might amuse you to see the way 
that I begin a window. As you will see, the 
whole frame is about constructed and would 
almost stand up for itself without any glass, 
without any color and with little modelling. 
This then is a study of line and is different 
from the notion of some of my intellectual 
friends that the line is to be put on afterward." 
This question of line involved for him, too, 



I 193 ] 
the larger question of an artist's getting his 
personality into his work. He could not paint 
a picture by the simple process of drawing it 
in outline and handing it over to an assistant 
to execute. If he sent a design for a window 
to the workshop and there left it to take care 
of itself he knew that, even under the hands 
of the remarkably skilful workmen he had 
formed, the essence of his style would evapo- 
rate. He knew that by instinct and he knew it 
by observation of actual work done in glass. 
For a report to the French government writ- 
ten by M. Bing in 1893 he composed some 
notes on his experience and practice. At the 
outset he emphasizes his belief in the neces- 
sity of a close alliance between studio and 
workshop : — 

" I thought that I had noticed in the work 
of the English artists in stained glass that they 
had come to the end of their rope, and that 
their work in glass had ceased improving, and 
it seemed to me that the cause of this was 
mainly because the designer had become sep- 
arated from the men who made the actual 
window. I do not mean separated in sympathy 
but that they no longer followed the mechan- 
ism now that they had learned it, and conse- 



C 194 2 
quently that whatever they did was only ex- 
pressed in the manner that had first been used 
for their design. Moreover they made designs 
for the drawing and not for the result ; beau- 
tiful drawings — bad result ! It occurred to me 
that if I made a design for stained glass to be 
carried out as was proposed in this country, 
that I should follow the entire manufacture, 
selecting the colors myself, and watching 
every detail.' ' 

He did this, and, into the bargain, as I have 
previously noted, he moved heaven and earth 
to make up for the poverty of material by 
which he was confronted. His Luxembourg 
glass maker worked under his eye. He im- 
ported glass from the European makers. He 
built up tones by placing different pieces of 
glass in layers and studied the juxtaposition of 
different notes of color — an important point, 
for the play of light through a window natu- 
rally has something like a chemical effect upon 
two or more clustered bits of glass, not one in 
the cluster escaping modification through the 
influence of its neighbor. He dealt with a pas- 
sage in glass as with one in a painting, devel- 
oping countless subtle gradations of color; 
and, simultaneously with this pursuit of the 



Fruit and Flower Garland 




■y . W," // -d',i . relief 



I 195 3 

more obvious resources of his craft, he beat 
out new methods of holding his composition 
together. Not content with giving to his lead 
lines a dignity and meaning unknown to his 
contemporaries, he devised "a sort of variation 
of cloisonni, made by joining glass by thin fila- 
ments of metal fused to the glass and plated on 
both sides with different surfaces of glass ad- 
hering." But it is needless to trace all the 
ramifications of his technical inventiveness. It 
is the character of his glass that counts. 

At the roots of that character was La Farge's 
understanding of the true office of convention 
in art. Convention has for generations suffered 
in repute because it has so often been the ref- 
uge of the slack intelligence, but to La Farge 
it was a precious instrument. Books and pho- 
tographs were at his hand and he carried in 
his brain a kind of anthology of all the deco- 
rative styles ; but not if he had tried could he 
have used them in the wooden, literal way of 
the unimaginative artist. His friends had not 
divined the source of his pattern in the Derby 
window. He baffled them in all his windows. 
Wherever he found a motive, his rehandling 
of it presently made it very much his own. 
And yet, so ingrained was his sense of order 



C 196 ] 
and tradition, that his window might be never 
so original and still it would admit a certain 
kinship with historic schools of design. I have 
in mind, for example, a window for a house in 
New York in which simulated pilasters, cor- 
nice and sill reproduce the carved framework 
of a window in an old Florentine palazzo. The 
note of the Renaissance is unmistakable. Be- 
tween the pilasters in the centre of the win- 
dow the clou of the design is supplied by a 
mass of flowers and leafage, which it is equally 
obvious was worked out under the influence 
of Japanese art. The arrangement, stated in 
words, suggests incongruity ; but the odd thing 
is that La Farge, through the sheer force of 
his individuality, completely harmonizes his 
so different styles, and, what is more, he does 
so with no concealment of his Italian and Ori- 
ental sanctions. Apprehending the thing as a 
whole you recognize simply his creative fac- 
ulty. It is only when you coldly analyze it that 
you see what inspirations he has borrowed — 
and then you reflect on the rare intuition which 
led him to borrow those two elements of style 
and no others. 

Formality, which was with him a steadying 
force, operating from the back of his mind and 



C !»7 ] 
never employed for its own sake, entered into 
his glass in such wise that while you knew it 
to be indispensable there you scarce recog- 
nized its presence. His arabesques were not 
the dull, insensate devisings of a stodgy geo- 
metrician. They were like the pure and beau- 
tiful touches of decoration placed sparingly 
upon his building by a Greek architect, or like 
the nominally negligible cusp, lovingly carved 
by the mediaeval stonemason on the spire of 
a cathedral. They were little knots of form, 
meant to hold color in solution; cunningly 
wrought webs in which to imprison light. 
There are many of La Farge's windows which 
therefore seem to be but curtains of jewels 
hung between us and the light, pieces of some 
new kind of luminous tapestry. The designs 
very often are dominated by this merely sensu- 
ous spirit; but in many more La Farge showed 
his old love for the beauty of flowers, and in 
others he used the figure as freely as in mural 
painting, and, on occasion, even more auda- 
ciously. Courage, indeed, was one of his inborn 
traits, and in his work he was ever ready to 
press a resource as far as he could make it go. 
In glass he felt that the possibilities were illim- 
itable, and, great as his achievements were, 
he dreamed of still more daring things. 



C 198 ] 
When he set down his recollections of 
Clarence King for the book framed by the 
Century Club in honor of that other man of 
genius, he described the astounding project 
that King talked over with him when the 
tomb of General Grant was under considera- 
tion. "Our notion," he wrote, "was to have 
filled the drum or perhaps even the curves of 
the dome with the richest and deepest of 
figured glass, built, if I may so express it, into 
the walls of the structure, and not a mere fit- 
ting in as windows. . . . This imaginary tower 
would then have been like the glory of the in- 
terior of a great jewel in the day, but at night 
would have sent out a far radiance over the 
entire city, making as it were a pharos, a 
light-house, to be seen from afar by night, as 
well as by day, and dominating the river as 
well as the land. Of course this was too poetic 
and ideal a structure to be accepted at the date 
we proposed it," It was not too poetic an ideal 
for La Farge, nor would it have been too diffi- 
cult, too monumental a scheme, for him to 
have carried out. On the contrary, as I have 
said, in glass nothing could balk him and the 
larger the opportunity the more royally he 
ruled it. It was as though glass put under his 



C *99 ] 
hand an orchestral body which no one else 
could drive. His notes of color pealed forth in 
clarion tones, they sank to the mellow mur- 
murings of the wood- wind, they rose to the 
piercing assertiveness of the strings, and then, 
again, they were fused in veritably sea-like 
waves of power and deep, mysterious beauty. 
He put ideas into his windows as he put them 
into everything that he did, true religious 
emotion in the countless designs that he made 
for churches, and an infinite variety of deco- 
rative arrangements of form in those pro- 
duced for secular buildings. But out of the 
great mass of his work in glass the master- 
piece which I would signalize as most com- 
pletely representative is the famous Peacock 
window, now preserved in the art museum at 
Worcester. 

This window occupies a place apart. It is, 
indeed, something more than a window, and 
in that fact lies its exceptional interest. We 
are ruled by routine. It is the mission of the 
painter to paint; the sculptor is expected to 
abide by the rules of plastic art, and, of course, 
it is obviously desirable that both artists 
should avoid hybrid methods. But is it equally 
certain that the man who works in glass 



C 2 °° n 

should only make windows; that his art 
should be governed by a purpose half utili- 
tarian and half decorative? Is there any reason 
why a design executed in this medium should 
not exist in and for itself? La Farge answered 
the question by producing a great work of 
art for no other reason than that he got end- 
less pleasure out of the manipulation of its 
materials. 

The window — since, for convenience, we 
must use the term — is an upright panel of 
modest dimensions, perhaps forty inches high 
and a little less than half as wide. Filling a 
good part of the space is a peacock of glorious 
plumage. The head and body are well up in 
the higher zone of the composition, so that 
the colors of the back and of the tail feath- 
ers seem to flow as in an iridescent waterfall 
down toward the watery green background 
at the bottom. This background, which has a 
fairly light tone at the base of the design, 
deepens gradually as it ascends through gra- 
dations of dark blues and dark purples. Here 
and there, on either side of the bird, there is 
a mass of rosy but quiet color. These episodes 
are provided by the big peonies which the 
artist chose for his floral motive. Their lovely 



[ SOI ] 

hues are made the lovelier through contrast 
with dark leafage. Set within these broader 
elements of color is the proud blaze of the 
peacock's feathers. They make actually a 
kind of conflagration and yet this work is in 
nothing more artistic than in its fusion of un- 
numbered glowing tints into a positively re- 
poseful harmony. It is as if La Farge had 
taken a thousand precious stones and then 
filtered the sunlight through them, but had 
always remembered so to arrange his jewels, 
so to blend or contrast them, that in the en- 
semble they should preserve something of the 
subtle, sober unity which you find in divers 
nominally " gorgeous" things, such as Ori- 
ental rugs, the arabesques of the Alhambra, 
or ordinary fireworks. In other words, this 
is the very poetry of stained glass, a vision of 
sensuous loveliness realized in a medium no- 
toriously obstinate but made to serve the de- 
signer's purpose as readily as pigment serves 
it. 

I make the allusion to pigment, however, 
for the very reason that we must here dis- 
tinguish between the two mediums. The Pea- 
cock Window is not a picture, an attempt to 
do in glass what one might do in paint, an 



I 202 ] 

attempt at translation. On the contrary, its 
great virtue lies in the fact that it has the 
character only to be extorted from glass; it 
expresses the very genius of a medium. You 
feel this on looking closely into its textures. 
You see how that marvellous background 
possesses just the depth and transparency 
which lie beyond the reach of the brush. You 
see how the form of the peacock is defined in 
what I must call "strokes" but that these 
have a special character, and are not, for ex- 
ample, the equivalents of brush-work; they 
denote the technique of glass and of glass 
alone. You see how the thin threads of metal 
play a part of their own, an indispensable 
part, toward the unfolding of the charm of the 
whole. You see, finally, how it was only with 
glass that La Farge could gain the strength 
lent by one touch of flaming ruby amid his 
hues of emerald, sapphire and topaz, or, with 
tiny apertures at a hundred points, allow the 
light to sift through like so much diamond 
dust. It is the kind of work to stir a painter's 
soul and make him wish to turn from his 
familiar occupation to experiment in glass. 
Only, in making the transition, he would have 
clearly to recognize the fact that he had come 



C 2 °3 3 

to woo a totally new muse, that while his ex- 
perience as a painter might help him he would 
have to render allegiance to glass as glass, 
and observe the full rigor of the game. 

That La Farge could do this is one expla- 
nation of his preeminence in glass, and with 
the thought there must come, I think, an im- 
pulse of admiration, passing into reverence, 
for the genius and the largeness of soul which 
fitted him to conquer so vast an area in the 
domain of art. I have spoken of his passion for 
work and the store of energy upon which he 
valiantly drew, impatient of the claims of 
health. "For a sick man I write too much," 
concludes one of the letters quoted in this vol- 
ume. For a sick man he did too much in every 
direction. Nevertheless it is not solely upon 
the scale and duration of his physical effort, 
perhaps unique in modern times, that the stu- 
dent of his career is moved to reflect, nor upon 
his unquenchable enthusiasm, beautiful as that 
was. The outstanding trait of La Farge is, of 
course, the sheer breadth and richness of his 
scope. Versatility is a poor word to apply to 
a man of his gifts. It connotes, ordinarily, a 
smaller type, a type of powers more lightly 
exercised and suffering thereby a certain wan- 



I 204 ] 

ton diffusion of their inner spark. La Farge 
met the temptation to wreak himself on com- 
paratively minor issues and did not always 
resist it. When he was working in the Van- 
derbilt house and making, in the glass for it, 
some of his most important designs, he took 
the creation of embroideries there under his 
care and gave his attention also to some of the 
woodwork, as he did in the development of 
his decorative scheme in St. Thomas's Church. 
Years ago, too, he deviated briefly into sculp- 
ture, designing a monument, including a ped- 
estal with steps and a cross, which stands in 
the cemetery at Newport. But mainly, when 
he required passages of plastic art in his work, 
as at St. Thomas's and in the Vanderbilt house, 
he made the designs and then called in Saint- 
Gaudens to be his collaborator. 

In the arts to which he unreservedly gave 
himself at one stage or another of his career 
he saw his inspiration steadily and he saw it 
whole. You observe the landscapes, flower 
studies and figure pieces of his early period, 
the oils, water colors and drawings; you 
reckon up the paintings of his maturity, the 
Eastern and South Sea pictures and sketches, 
and the great mural decorations ; and you add 



C 2 °5 3 
to these the stupendous succession of his works 
in glass. Beneath the surface of it all you per- 
ceive a proud and strong spirit holding undis- 
tracted to its course, knowing its own mind, 
confident of its high authority received as 
through a laying on of hands, and, as in the 
ancient days, leaving behind it an indelible 
mark. His multifarious activities are strangely 
unified by his intrinsic greatness. 



VII 
THE OLD MASTER 

WISDOM was the capstone of his career, 
the fruition of his long labors — wis- 
dom, and a clairvoyance which made him free 
of all the real things. If this were a formal bio- 
graphy I suppose I would occupy myself in 
reciting quantities of external incidents, — the 
commissions given to La Farge, the medals 
won, the degrees conferred upon him by 
learned institutions, and all the other miscel- 
laneous details of a long life. But this is not a 
formal biography. What I have endeavored 
to do has been simply to portray the La Farge 
I knew, a personality, a mind, an artistic force. 
It is for this reason also that I have refrained 
from the analysis of scores of works of his, 
very familiar to me and full of material tempt- 
ing to discuss. In any case the recording and 
describing of all of a man's productions is a 
doubtful enterprise, far more doubtful than we 
are wont to think, with our modern infatuation 
for what we are pleased to regard as historical 
completeness. It is the notion that to be criti- 



John La Farge in 1 902 



C 2 °7 ] 
cally exhaustive we must count all the leaves 
on the tree that explains the frequent preser- 
vation of stuff which a great artist would de- 
stroy if he knew the moment in which he was 
to die. It has been responsible, too, for the 
transformation of many a biography into a 
wearisome catalogue. 

The greatest of artists has his lapses and his 
longueurs, not moments merely but days in 
which inspiration fails and something like 
gaucherie descends upon him. La Farge him- 
self has said that hero worship is not the best 
key to understanding. True appreciation of 
Whistler, for example, has been seriously ar- 
rested in many quarters by the ululations of 
the fanatics who would have it that every 
touch of a master's hand is priceless. Some- 
times it is almost valueless, being without 
nervous force or purpose. La Farge knew 
well enough that a work of art is not to be 
measured by a foot rule and then to be sum- 
marily dismissed as good or bad. He knew also 
the weight and profound truth of that saying 
of Keats : " When I feel I am right, no exter- 
nal praise can give me such a glow as my own 
solitary reperception and ratification of what 
is fine/' Writing to me of a new window that 



C 208 ] 

he had completed, and that " in the shop looks 
handsome," La Farge goes on to say: "It is 
of a novel idea, I think, and a new treatment 
— in our part of work — but the main point is 
that I like it." The italics are mine. I use them 
as a reminder of what it is always important 
to look for in his, or in any artist's work — 
what he intended and achieved, not what we 
think he ought to have done. But it is with a 
sense of La Farge's own outlook upon ques- 
tions of this sort that I have refused to write 
of him as of a demigod. I should be sorry if 
from any of the foregoing chapters the reader 
had surmised that I wished to paint him as im- 
peccable and possessed of the unanswerable 
authority of a force of nature. No man of ge- 
nius that ever wielded a brush has been so 
fearful a wildfowl as all that. 

It is enough if we recognize that La Farge 
at his best produced certain works of art of a 
gem-like perfection. The "Paradise Valley " 
is one of these and there are other landscapes, 
dating from the same period, which I would 
rank with it. Many of his flower paintings and 
figure pieces are on the same plane. The 
"Ascension," amongst his mural decorations, 
and the "Peacock Window" in the field of 



C 209 3 

glass, are there to illustrate again the con- 
summate master. But the whole trend of my 
study has been toward the exposition of his 
essential greatness as an artist and I need not 
labor the point. What is necessary to the fuller 
realization of his character, the closer grasp 
of the special quality of his genius, is a sense 
of that complexity on which we cannot too 
often pause, that dependence of his upon 
mental and spiritual mood, that protean habit 
which, if it prevented him from invariably 
striking twelve, made every movement of his 
forces an affair of subtly personalized interest. 
He was not the painter to brood over a work 
in every instance until he left it an example 
of rounded perfection, then going on to ab- 
sorption in a similar task, so that his life was 
a succession of so many flawless milestones. 
He took things in his stride. He never scamped 
anything; but there was always a tremendous 
ferment going on in his brain, he was always 
interested in many things and subject to gusts 
and jets of emotion and curiosity. Hence, in 
the vast body of his work, the presence of 
quantities of things which, from the point of 
view of the schoolmaster distributing marks 
of merit and demerit, are not, strictly speak- 



ing, masterpieces, but which have his quality 
in them, and, above all, are intensely original. 
I cannot lay too heavy a stress upon the ab- 
sence from his work of traits linking him, as 
an imitator, with any masters or schools of the 
past. In his own time he had only two paral- 
lels, Watts and Moreau, and he was more 
purely the artist than either of them. Like 
Tintoretto, who sought to blend the color of 
Titian with the form of Michael Angelo, the 
English artist deliberately sat down to con- 
scious emulation. He paid the penalty in a cer- 
tain exaggerated subjection to tradition. Also 
there was forever lurking in him a Tolstoyan 
ambiguity as to where the claims of art and 
those of morals were to be differentiated. La 
Farge never fell into either mistake. He began 
without formulas and with a distrust of their 
efficacy; he ended in the same mood of de- 
tachment from them, with the same distrust. 
Though tradition and morals were both ever 
present in his conception of life and of art he 
kept each in its place. He thought too accu- 
rately to be misled in these matters, and on the 
side of technique, which is so closely allied to 
them in the genius of a man of mind, he knew 
too well just what he was about. It is amusing 



C 211 ] 

to compare him with Moreau. In the sphere 
of imagination there was a tie of sympathy 
between them, but where the Frenchman 
missed the beauty of painted surface in spite 
of striving for it, he, as I have shown in an 
earlier chapter, got it easily enough when he 
tried for it. When we miss it in his later period 
we recognize a renunciation, not a depriva- 
tion. 

I must speak again of his mixed feeling on 
this point. At times he would regard his de- 
tachment from the manipulation of pigment 
and the " bloom " to which I have alluded, as 
a regrettable sacrifice imposed by hard cir- 
cumstance. In the reminiscences he wrote for 
me there is a passage almost plaintively ex- 
pressing this point of view. Referring to his 
decorative work, he says, " In all this there is 
a good deal of fun, but I still regret that I 
gave up the art of painting, for which I had, 
evidently, quite a talent and for which I had 
made very serious studies, many far in ad- 
vance of the people of my day." Neverthe- 
less, as he constantly made plain to me, he 
did not exaggerate the significance of the art 
of painting as it was illustrated in his earlier 
manner. He simply recognized the fact that 



there are kinds of painting. It is hard, as I have 
shown, for many modern artists to seize this 
truth. It was simple enough for La Farge, with 
his capacity for infinite degrees of adjustment. 
Simple enough for him, I say, yet for the bi- 
ographer, striving to trace the windings of his 
thought, the reasoning by which he arrived at 
his resolutions and reconciled all the warring 
impulses met on the way, every stage of ana- 
lysis involves new obstacles. Years of inti- 
macy with La Farge could not make him less 
baffling, less elusive. In the first chapter of 
this book I have quoted the remarkable analy- 
sis of his genius by his old friend and travel- 
ling companion, Henry Adams. Here, from a 
private letter, are some further passages from 
the same hand : — 

"I am such a matter-of-fact sort of person 
that I never could try to approach La Farge 
from his own side. He had to come over to 
mine. Yet he, like most considerable artists, 
worked so much more intuitively than intel- 
lectually that he could not have taught me 
much, had he tried ; because I could only work 
intellectually. For that reason I thought I 
could follow him best in his glass, where his 
effects were strong and broad. Although I 



C 213 ] 

thought him quite the superior of any other 
artist I ever met, — and I have no special rea- 
son for limiting the remark to artists alone, — 
he was so « un-American/ — so remote from 
me in time and mind, — and above all, so un- 
intelligible to himself as well as to me, that I 
have preferred to talk little about him, in de- 
spair of making him or his art intelligible to 
Americans ; but if I did try to do it, I would 
rather try by putting some of his glass side 
by side with that of other centuries back to 
the twelfth. Perhaps, by that means, he might 
become intelligible. 

" He was a marvel to me in his contradic- 
tions. Unlike most men of genius he had no 
vices that I could detect. He had one of the 
most perfectly balanced judgments that could 
ever exist. Towards me, he seemed always 
even-tempered to an inconceivable degree. I 
do not mean benevolent, or sentimental, or 
commonplace, but just even, and in his disap- 
proval as well as in his acceptance. Of course 
he was often severe, but his severity itself was 
shaded and toned. Yet he was not easy to live 
with, thus contradicting even his contradic- 
tions. 

"The task of painting him is so difficult as 



C 21 4 3 
to scare any literary artist out of his wits. The 
thing cannot be done. It is like the attempt of 
the nineteenth-century writers to describe a 
sunset in colors. Complexity cannot be handled 
in print to that degree. La Farge used to de- 
ride his own attempts to paint sea and sky and 
shadow in the South Seas, and was rather fond 
of pointing out how, at a certain point of de- 
velopment, he always failed, and spoiled his 
picture. At a certain point of development, the 
literary artist is bound to fail still more because 
he has not even color to help him, and mere 
words only call attention to the fact that the 
attempt to give them color is a predestined 
failure. In the portrait of La Farge you must 
get not only color, but also constant change 
and shifting of light, as in opals and moon- 
stones and star-sapphires, where the light is in 
the object. You need to write as an^artist, for 
artists, because the highest-educated man or 
woman of the world cannot comprehend you, 
if you qualify and refine, as La Farge did, and 
then contradict your own refinements by fling- 
ing great masses of pure force in your readers* 
faces, as he did in his windows." 

The hope that lures one on in this struggle 
to qualify and refine, to find unity in com- 



C 21 ^ 3 

plexity, is a hope that sustains the student 
of every great character. Most men of emi- 
nence leave behind them the memory of a 
controlling principle, visible like some still, 
central flame, shining through the bulk of 
their achievement. Call it what you will, — 
the ruling passion, the influence of an environ- 
ment, the force of an idea, — you know the 
man for a type, and, no matter how averse you 
may be from classifying genius, you inevit- 
ably because instinctively give it its label. The 
mere convenience we automatically seek in 
our mental transactions leads us to put a great 
man in his group, to think of him under a given 
head in the history of human endeavor. This 
one, we say, was constructive ; that one was 
an agent of broad imaginative inspiration ; an- 
other we call a moral aid, and still another is 
a voice of doubt. The list of tags is endless, but 
that fact does not discourage our use of tags. 
I use the expression, of course, in no narrow 
sense, but as it applies in our dealings with 
even the greatest men. When I ask myself, 
following this habit, what La Farge preemi- 
nently stood for, I find something trivial and 
misleading in the association of his genius with 
anything that connotes a style, a school. Into 



C 2l6 3 

what definitely bounded category could we 
force the artist whose character I have attempt- 
ed to analyze ? But in his rejection of formulas 
there lies, I think, a clue. To pursue, as far as 
one may, the secret of that love of freedom that 
moved him all his life long, is to approach 
what I believe to be his distinguishing trait, 
the one giving us our label — if label we must 
have. 

La Farge's ruling passion, perceptible as we 
see his life as a whole and perhaps only then 
— though it is revealed by flashes in his talk 
and writings — was the lust of knowledge. He 
loved knowledge for its own sake. To the 
thinking man knowledge is a kind of sensation 
— it is tangible, sensuous, thrilling, a thing as 
grateful to his whole being as is the sharp salt 
savor of the sea, cold, stinging, and ineffably 
delicious when it is breasted naked on a burn- 
ing day. To such a man the acquirement of 
knowledge is an affair of unceasing zest and 
pleasure. And to such a man this perpetual 
hunt through the world of thought is nothing 
if not disinterested; it means nothing if it does 
not mean the development in his soul of a pro- 
found humility. I see La Farge questioning, 
always questioning, but never suffering disap- 



[ 21 7 ^ 

pointment because the solution of his problem 
was always just beyond his reach. He would 
have been disappointed, in a sense, if he could 
have grasped it. That would have spelled 
finality and would have taken too many sur- 
prises, too many illusions, out of life. Hence, 
too, the liberality of his judgments, his refusal 
to regard any question as settled, or any per- 
sonality, historic or in his own time, as con- 
clusively understood and explained. His re- 
spect for the individuality of any man, great 
or small, lay deep and, I may even say, had 
about it something of gentleness, of tender- 
ness. He feared to misunderstand, to misjudge. 
There was always the other side of the 
medal to be accounted for. What was it like ? 
He hungered to know. But to get the know- 
ledge he used all the discretion imaginable and 
when it was his he was doubly anxious to treat 
it with respect, to be quite sure. The new 
knowledge did not round out, any more than 
it cancelled, the old. It only complicated the 
original question — and thereby made it the 
more delightful. He was a Heracleitean. He 
saw life in a flux and that gave it, for him, its 
charm. The most LaFargesque saying I know 
occurs in a letter written in sickness and noting 



[>18 ] 

how an invalid necessarily disturbs all the peo- 
ple around him. "I stood as well as I could," 
he says, "the annoyances I inflicted. " In that 
remark, absolutely accurate, sincere, and char- 
acteristic, there is perfectly mirrored his in- 
ability to see only one side of a question, his 
completely disinterested interest in both sides 
of it. 

He was so accustomed to thinking and feel- 
ing in this way that in spite of a pretty broad 
experience of human nature he was apt to 
take for granted the same elasticity of mind 
in others. Naturally he knew, from time to 
time, rather startling disillusionment. This 
always puzzled and grieved him a little, for he 
deplored what seemed to him a violation of the 
proper laws of thought, and, besides, he hated 
the misunderstandings so often promoted by 
such violation. Misunderstanding leads to 
anger and bitterness. La Farge was not a 
quarrelsome man and he deprecated these 
evils as he would have deprecated the invasion 
of his studio by ugly noises. Moreover, the 
importance sometimes attached to the little 
troubles of life outraged his sense of propor- 
tion. He delighted in Cellini, loving best of all 
his naturalness, and it annoyed him that peo- 



[ 21 9 3 
pie often got excited about the Italian's truth 
or falsehood. Speaking of this, one night, he 
tried to recall some "clever" person who had 
been guilty of the unfairness, and then said, 
with a laugh, " But why try to remember stu- 
pid, unpleasant things ?" For one thing, he 
felt that such remembrance not seldom ended 
in complete misrepresentation. It amused him 
to reflect on the manner in which he had him- 
self occasionally suffered from heedless gossip, 
and in a late letter he asked me : — 

"Do you remember the old story — 
French — absolutely true, I was told, in the 
French office ? An employ^ finds a good deal 
of money in big bills. Brings it in to office. Is 
thanked. A few years after, is mentioned for 
advancement. The 'Ministre' in charge of 
office says, < But why? I remember his name. 
Was he not implicated in an affair about money 
found ? No proof against him — perhaps ? * " 

He told me that story apropos of another, 
which had been told about himself, one pos- 
sibly familiar to some of my readers, for a man 
like La Farge is always the subject of anec- 
dotes handed about. It had to do with an 
Oriental rug which he had purchased years 
ago in Boston, at a time when, in the opinion 



[ 220 ] 

of persons having nothing whatever to do 
with it or with him, the purchase was immea- 
surably extravagant. Well, it was a Mecca 
carpet — some five feet square — for which 
La Farge paid the sum of forty dollars ! And 
his crime consisted in buying the piece from 
under the nose of some one else who wanted 
it. Recollecting the insignificant episode with 
much enjoyment of its drollery, he wrote me 
of the odd connection between this rug and a 
decorative problem which he had to carry out 
at the time in consonance with certain "de- 
nominational" principles : — 

"The < motives ' of it are on the ceiling of 
the Congregational Church in Newport. Now 
my rug had struck me as solving the problem 
of the ceiling and part of the wall. It suggested 
some of the earlier Romanesque in cruciform 
patterns, and yet was evidently not a < Rom- 
ish' pattern. I dare not say it was Mahom- 
medan. So you see the careless, spendthrift, 
bad man had some close idea of business du- 
ties in his wild career." 

There is an old tale about the great Duke 
of Wellington, ruefully murmuring that he 
was "much exposed to authors." La Farge 
was much exposed to committees. I think he 



JVaterfall in our Garden at JSlkko, Japan 



[ 221 ] 

liked them, or at any rate that they had for 
him a kind of dark fascination, as of august 
bodies whose terribilita might at any moment 
drift into an amusing phase. There is, to be 
sure, something about committees that is not 
wholly solemn. From the member of shrink- 
ing modesty, who knows nothing about art but 
"knows what he likes," to the member who 
does n't know even that, and is accordingly, 
like Habakkuk, capable de tout, they are all, 
in the nature of things, possessed of a demon. 
I do not recall if in that amusing book of M. 
Le Bon's on "The Psychology of the Crowd," 
which I read long ago, there is a chapter on 
committees, but if there is one it must account 
for their ways on mystic grounds. No doubt 
committees, and individuals, occasionally 
thought that they had reason to be vexed with 
La Farge. There is, of course, something 
heinous in an artist's failure to finish and de- 
liver a piece of work, according to contract, 
on a given Wednesday afternoon at half past 
two. But sometimes one wearies of the hy- 
pothesis that the business man is the only re- 
spectable type in an imperfect world, whose 
orderliness, punctuality, solvency, and unas- 
sailable rectitude must excite our blind vene- 



ration. For my own part, over the anguish of 
the owners of those Brahminical toes on which 
La Farge may have reposed himself from 
time to time, I cannot weep salt tears. On the 
contrary, I contemplate it with that emotion 
sanctioned in one of La Rochefoucauld's best 
remembered maxims. After all, a great artist 
is not necessarily supplied with all the virtues 
of a stockbroker or a manufacturer. And to 
any one who really knew La Farge it was 
plain that he longed to keep his affairs in apple- 
pie order. It was not easy to do this, with his 
ill-health and with the mountains of work that 
he had to get through, but his good faith was 
inextinguishable, as was his desire to meet the 
wishes of those with whom he had dealings 
and to share with them the sweets of good- 
will. We used often to talk about his adven- 
tures in the world of everyday business, where 
practical considerations rise up like ravening 
wolves in the path of the artist eager to realize 
his dreams. Writing to me on this subject he 
once said : — 

"You can hardly imagine how absurd it is 
to realize that you cannot give certain extra 
folds to a cloak because they will cost so many 
dollars more, or that an extra angel's head is 



C 22 ^ ] 

worth seventy-two dollars and must be cut 
out, or one of its hands hidden because that is 
five dollars, and that the very shape of the 
fold is a matter of money. So that which of the 
business firms of England, or, indeed, of the 
United States, has the deepest religious senti- 
ment, I do not know. 

" Perhaps you will remember that in one 
of my lectures at the Metropolitan Museum I 
recorded how some good women, some nuns, 
consulted me on this question. I advised them 
to take the young man with the prettiest beard 
and the sweetest cravat, whom I think they 
would have taken anyhow. This is funny but 
it is absolutely true. The same good ladies 
did not like the old Italian paintings, from A 
to Z, which I had shown them to get an idea 
of what they liked and to help their tastes a 
little. These are the foundations on which we 
build for Eternity." 

The passage is good-natured. LaFargehad 
exemplary patience with the difficult condi- 
tions often confronting him. He knew that 
Rome was not built in a day and he was slow 
to complain. Upon a memorable occasion he 
spoke out with electrifying effect. When, in 
January, 1909, at a dinner given by the 



C 22 ^ ] 

Architectural League of New York, that body 
bestowed upon him its medal of honor for the 
best work of decorative painting shown at its 
exhibition that year, he remarked in his speech 
of acceptance that a certain firm of architects 
had not, for twenty years, given him any work 
to do. Of course this made a sensation in the 
newspapers of the next morning and early I 
received a hurried note, saying, "Oh, why 
were you not at the dinner of the League last 
night? 'They' had the most stupid account in 
some of the papers of what I may have said — 
so inaccurately reported as to make me seem 
to attack persons and things." He was cruelly 
distressed, and a little later there came in 
the Tribune this explanation of the spirit in 
which he had spoken : — 

" I am simply voicing my regret at the lack 
of coordination between the arts — between 
the mural painters and the architects. We 
were all friends at the dinner and knew each 
other well. As for my statement that McKim, 
Mead & White had refused to give me any 
work, that was based on something the late 
Stanford White said to me. We were inti- 
mate friends ; yet he remarked to me once 
that for business reasons he could never have 
me do any work. Why, I do not know. 



C »*5 ] 

"As for the medal presented to me, when I 
said that I received it with < some reticence of 
thanks/ I meant simply that I was getting to 
that time of life when such things meant little. 
At my age one thinks more of the heaven in 
< Andrea del Sarto ' — how does it go ? well, 
never mind — it's fifty-two years since I've 
read it. But it is about painting within the four 
walls of heaven with Michael Angelo and the 
others/' 

The incident was characteristic of La Farge 
in a certain innocent, faun-like mischievous- 
ness, and even more in its illustration of what 
I have already touched upon, his readiness to 
assume that others could look, as he could, all 
around a subject. There was no malice in that 
outburst of his and I may appositely recall 
the fact that when McKim died he placed in 
my hands, to publish in the Tribune, a long let- 
ter on the architect full of loyalty and the most 
affectionate appreciation. Misunderstanding 
and ill-feeling were, I must say once more, 
hateful to him. I remember that when the 
Society of American Artists was to go back 
into the fold of the Academy of Design he 
asked me to come to the dinner with which 
the event was to be celebrated, and expressed 



I 226 ] 

his fear of there being any ill-timed com- 
ment on the subject anywhere. Fearful that 
the newspapers might not be entirely sym- 
pathetic in their reports of the occasion, he 
said to me: "We can't have anything too 
quiet, even to the extent of there being no- 
thing. This is all the more because many of 
our younger people would like to have heads 
broken and a general scrimmage, and what 
for I don't know." It might seem, perhaps, 
irrelevant to speak of these trifles that have 
gone down the wind, but La Farge was a man 
of genius, and in consequence people some- 
times found him « difficult.' ' I like therefore 
to show how really lovable he was and how 
careful at bottom for the interests and feel- 
ings of others. In all our long friendship I 
never once knew him to be unfair or un- 
kind. To me he seemed always as he seemed 
to Mr. Adams, "even-tempered to an incon- 
ceivable degree." One more testimony to the 
fineness of his spirit I wish to cite, for I know 
that it gave him deep pleasure. The great 
decoration in the Church of the Ascension 
suffered delay in being carried to comple- 
tion. Something of what he told me about it I 
have set down earlier in my narrative, and, in- 



[ 22 7 ] 

deed, it is unnecessary to traverse the subject 
in detail. There were stories again, like that 
about the rug, only in this case they showed 
him as sorely trying the patience of his com- 
mittee. They wounded him, for they were un- 
deserved, and the late Dr. E.W. Donald, who 
had been Rector of the Church of the Ascen- 
sion when the work was done, wrote to him a 
letter from which I take the following : — 

" Perhaps you won't be sorry to have me 
say in black and white that in all the dealings 
I have had with you (and as I look back upon 
them they have been many and important) 
there has been absolutely nothing that could 
by even a wicked ingenuity be twisted into the 
semblance of anything other than honorable 
dealing. To be sure, my lay ignorance of the 
ways in which an artist works has made it 
possible for me to be exasperated at delays, 
but completion of the work has invariably 
wholly removed exasperation, because, after 
completion, even I could recognize that delay 
meant the enhancement of the artistic value 
of the work. Indeed, as I look back upon the 
years in which you were at work upon the 
great painting in the Ascension, and shame- 
facedly recall my clumsy and perhaps brutal 



C 228 ] 

attempts to hurry you, I am filled with con- 
trition. The soiled and ragged and crumpled 
curtain has long since vanished from my mem- 
ory, and the great painting alone occupies the 
field of view. Perhaps, you, too, as you look 
back upon our relation have found it possible 
to forgive the pragmatic priest for his unrea- 
sonableness, recognizing that it was due, not 
to personal animosity, but to crass ignorance 
of the artist's life. At all events, as I think to- 
day of our coming window in Trinity, I find 
myself entirely able to wait with exemplary 
patience for its coming, knowing that delay 
means greater beauty in the glass. How much 
more reasonable we grow about big things as 
we advance in age ! How much more space in 
one's life the heart occupies ! I frankly confess 
that with each year I find, alongside of my ever 
increasing admiration for your work as an art- 
ist, a corresponding increase of affection for you 
as a man and friend ; so that to-day, instead of 
lookingupon you, as years ago I used to, solely 
as the great artist who makes our churches 
beautiful, I now think of you as the friend of 
my youth and of my manhood, to whom I owe 
much, apart from the debt your artistic work 
lays me under/' 



[ 229 ] 

There were many who owed him much, es- 
pecially amongst the artists of his time. Some 
of them he taught, but it is not so much the 
training that he gave his pupils and assistants 
that I would emphasize. It is, rather, the broad 
stimulus that he added to their lives, the spur 
they got from him, apart from mere questions 
of technique. Many years ago Saint-Gaudens 
worked with him, on the sculptural part of the 
decoration at St. Thomas's Church, and only 
death terminated their friendship. In the fall 
of 1903 the sculptor wrote to him and in the 
course of his letter said: "Later on I picked 
up 'McClure's,' where your articles on Mil- 
let, Rousseau, and Corot made the same im- 
pression that your work and my relations with 
you have always made and inspired in me to 
do the right and big thing.' ' That was the na- 
ture of La Farge's influence. He founded no 
school. His work was inimitable and he would 
not have imposed his style upon any one, even 
if he could have done so. But just as certain 
of his followers came to understand form and 
color the better for his example and teaching, 
so, I believe, these artists and a generation 
both of artists and of laymen came insensibly 
to profit by the largeness and rich substance 



C 230 ] 

of his ideas. His work exerted a spiritual force. 
It refined taste and fostered imagination. It 
made powerfully for the establishment of a 
high ideal. And not only his work as an artist 
did this ; he helped his time through his per- 
sonality, through his talk, and through his par- 
ticipation in the organizing actions of his fel- 
low artists. You did not find La Farge on the 
jury in every exhibition, but you found him 
working in his quiet way for every good cause. 
I have mentioned his letter on McKim. " Sud- 
denly one night/' he wrote/' the all-powerful 
Daniel Burnham dropped into the Century 
from Chicago, anxious to persuade McKim, 
whom he could not wake or find. We called on 
Mr. Cadwalader,who could help, and Mr. Mc- 
Kim was persuaded to listen to the plan of lay- 
ing out Washington according to the ancient 
schemes, and also evidently new ones to come. 
There it was. And almost the next day the 
whole party went down to take hold of the 
future. The painter, myself, dropped out later 
because painters come in afterward in the 
modern methods. In the ancient ways they 
were called upon to make great cities, such 
cities as Florence, but it was a beautiful thing 
to do and the memory of this with Mr. Burn- 



[ 231 ] 
ham and our dear Saint-Gaudens remains." In 
such ways his devotion to the artistic welfare 
of the country never failed. And when he was 
not thus serving his period the transmission of 
his ideas went forward through his books. 

There are too many of La Farge's own 
words in this volume for any minute exposi- 
tion of his purely literary traits to be required, 
but there are one or two observations on the 
subject which may fairly be made. He wrote 
as he painted and drew, and as he talked — 
from the impulse toward self-expression which 
is characteristic of the creative genius. " There 
is no such thing," says Swinburne, "as a dumb 
poet or a handless painter. The essence of an 
artist is that he should be articulate." For a 
man so naturally meditative La Farge was cu- 
riously impelled to be articulate, to give forth 
the thoughts constantly crowding upon him, 
and if he could not be making a work of art or 
conversing he was apt to take up the pen. He 
was an extraordinarily assiduous writer of let- 
ters. He enjoyed writing them, and, by the 
way, he liked publication. Alluding to a note 
in which he had corrected some misstatement 
in a newspaper, he wrote to me, " It is amusing 
to be in print and I can realize the joy of battle 



of so many in the wars of the press. " He wrote 
with such good will and so voluminously that 
by and by his calligraphy showed the strain. 
The hand, often exhausted with painting, could 
scarce keep pace with the exhaustless brain, 
and although, even in the last weeks of his life, 
he could with pen or pencil give beautiful form 
to a letter when he took the time, for years his 
delicate handwriting flowed almost too swiftly 
across the page and was not infrequently diffi- 
cult to decipher. Miss Barnes has told me of a 
quaint episode due to this illegibility. He had 
written a letter to the late J. Q. A. Ward and, 
on receiving a reply a day or two later, found 
it impossible to make it out. Meanwhile he 
had forgotten just what he had wanted to dis- 
cuss with his friend, but feeling vaguely that 
it was something important he contrived to get 
a message sent to Ward which brought him 
to the studio. After a little while La Farge 
remarked, casually, that he had received the 
reply to his letter but perhaps it had been 
written in haste, and, in any case, he could n't 
quite get at its contents. "Oh," said Ward, 
with a laugh, " I merely wrote to say that I 
could n't make out a word of your letter! " 
Partly because of the mere physical bother 



C 2 33 ] 
— and the delay — involved in writing clearly, 
and even more because it suited his tempera- 
ment, La Farge took to dictation, and, in later 
years especially, his literary work as well as 
much of his private correspondence was done 
with the aid of a stenographer. The practice 
was favorable to the preservation of all that 
was most characteristic in his mental habit. 
It made the reader of a book of his, or of a 
letter, the surer of his gleams of subtle sug- 
gestion, of his parenthetical excursions, of 
his eloquent pauses. In the letter from which I 
have previously quoted, Mr. Adams says : — 
"He wrote as he talked, so that you have 
his conversation almost exact in his writings. 
I used to think that if he were stenographically 
reported, we should find only multiplied forms 
of expression. In these he was, as you know, 
very abundant, and his choice of words and 
figures very amusing, so as to put him among 
the best talkers of the time, if not actually the 
first, as I thought he was; but the charm of 
talk is evanescent and largely in voice and 
manner. Except in cases where a certain 
forced brutality occurs, as in Dr. Johnson, or 
in Whistler, reports of table-talk are apt to 
disappoint; and La Farge's tones were too 



shadowy to bear forcing. I think his letters 
from Japan repeat his table-talk much better 
than any memory could recall it." 

Analysis of La Farge as a writer leads to 
one discovery which brings us sharply back 
to his character as a man. At the outset of my 
study I glanced at his faculty for the avoid- 
ance of those things which he did not want to 
do. Conversely, when La Farge wanted to do 
a thing he could do it, and this fact is vividly 
disclosed by certain of his writings. He was 
wont, as Mr. Adams says, to write as he 
talked, and accordingly there are pages of his 
— such as those, for example, in his book of 
lectures, "Considerations on Painting" — in 
which you must follow him with very great 
care. His prose there is close packed, some- 
times almost to the point of density. Thought 
treads fast upon the heels of thought, and one 
nuance melts into another. He is not obscure, 
but he is so full and rich that one must needs 
walk warily, for fear of missing a subterra- 
nean drift. On the other hand, when La Farge 
chose to be, I will not say didactic, but the 
more or less practical narrator, he could make 
his writing the easiest reading in the world. 
Turn to his book of "Great Masters," in 



C 235 2 
which he traverses the lives and works of 
Michael Angelo, Rembrandt, Hokusai, and 
three or four other commanding types. In 
that book he proves himself a vulgarisateur of 
artistic knowledge in the best meaning of the 
term, the true colleague of those men of taste 
and learning who have made the French text- 
book a model. He draws all the essential 
threads of information and of criticism into his 
hands, and, while it never occurred to him to 
"write down " to his readers, he knew how so 
to humanize his subject, how so to clarify and 
to simplify it, as to render it delightful to the 
least instructed layman. In a measure, I think, 
this effect was consciously secured — he knew 
his task and executed it with deliberate intent. 
But also it is well to note that amongst La 
Farge's many and complex traits there were 
those of the exact student, the conscientious 
and orderly thinker. We must remember, too, 
his trained and tireless vision. Nothing escaped 
him ; and if, as I am always recalling, he made 
unerringly for the thing that counted, it was 
also characteristic of him to give their full 
value to details possibly seeming, to some 
eyes, negligible. Following him upon his 
travels in the South Seas or in the East, you 



C 2 36 ^ 

might take him for a disciple of Taine in his 
predilection for the "little facts" to which 
that philosopher attached so much importance 
in the appraisal of a people. I might illustrate 
this by citations of his notes on tribal customs 
and the like in the Pacific islands, but that 
would divert us somewhat from the particular 
point in hand, which is La Farge's technique 
as a writer. For the illumination of that I pre- 
fer to choose one of those passages which he 
liked to affix to the titles of his pictures in an 
exhibition catalogue. With one of the loveliest 
of his Japanese paintings, "The Fountain in 
our Garden at Nikko," he used to give this 
extract : — 

" We have a little fountain in the middle of 
the garden, that gives the water for our bath, 
and sends a noisy stream rolling through the 
wooden trough of the wash room. The foun- 
tain is made by a bucket placed upon two big 
stones, set in a basin, along whose edge grow 
the iris, still in bloom. A hidden pipe fills the 
bucket and a long green bamboo makes a 
conduit for the water through the wooden side 
of our house. With another bamboo we tap 
the water for our bath. In the early morning 
I sit in the bathroom and paint this little pic- 



C 237 ] 
ture, through the open side, while A., upstairs 
in the veranda, is reading in Dante's « Para- 
dise ' and can see, when he looks up, the great 
temple roof of the Buddhist Mangwanji." 

The number of nouns in this brief descrip- 
tion, and the straightforward manner in which 
they are made to build up the picture, suggest 
for a moment the strictly realistic writer. All 
through his notes of travel La Farge keeps his 
eye on the object and is meticulously faithful 
to its every detail. His impressions, essentially 
atmospheric, rest upon the firmest of founda- 
tions. The passage just cited illustrates this 
point and it shows, too, what clarity of style 
was accessible to him when he was in the mood 
to secure it. Paradoxically, the mood came, 
so to say, at call, or, in other words, he in- 
stinctively fitted his style to the occasion. It 
was the true envelope of his thought, subtle 
when the latter took a metaphysical turn, and 
simplicity itself in a familiar record like the 
foregoing. Again we think of his possession 
of "one of the most perfectly balanced judg- 
ments that could ever exist." It served him 
unfailingly, directed his every touch and en- 
abled him to regard every question in the right 
perspective. He had the sanity, which is to say 



C 238 ^ 
the common sense, of genius. We may see this 
further operating in still another phase of his 
thought. 

La Farge's attitude toward the whole ques- 
tion of the criticism of art was very much that 
of the mature master who is also a man of the 
world. Like every man of genius he went his 
way untroubled by external admonition; he 
knew he could trust the still small voice of his 
own instinct. But the intellectual nature of his 
artistic habit made him fully appreciative of 
the importance of criticism as criticism, and 
he had not the smallest trace of that jealousy 
of the writing profession which characterizes 
so many artists and has its most famous ex- 
emplar in Whistler. If he realized, with that 
gay dogmatist, that art is art and mathematics 
is mathematics, it did not keep him from rec- 
ognizing the value of a penetrating thought 
wherever he found it. He read with intense 
sympathy what painters have said about their 
art, he read Delacroix and Fromentin, — and 
Whistler, too, — but then he read everything, 
and he would have scorned to reject the sound 
saying of a layman just as he would have 
smiled, as, indeed, I have known him to smile, 
over the naive hypothesis that any artist, by the 



C 239 ] 

simple process of being an artist, may brevet 
himself an oracle of artistic wisdom. Such wis- 
dom draws its validity and force from the in- 
dividual, and it has a way of cropping up in the 
most diverse places. For scholarship, espe- 
cially of that scientific sort which has arisen in 
the last half-century to correct the wilfulness 
and steady the principles of impressionistic 
criticism, he had the respect which he yielded 
to every manifestation of honest thought, but 
he did not share in the fond belief that there 
is something sacrosanct about it. I have from 
Brander Matthews an amusing story of La 
Farge on our latter-day craze for the connois- 
seurship which wreaks itself on puzzles of 
attribution. They were talking at the dinner 
table about the Morellian hypothesis and La 
Farge said: — 

"Let us suppose the testing of a picture of 
my own some time many years hence. The 
Morelli of the future might look at it narrowly 
and after a while conclude that the hands and 
eyes in the picture showed a Japanese con- 
ception of form. He would remember that I 
had kept a workshop, a bottega, after the old 
Italian fashion, and he would have heard that 
I had had Japanese people with me. So he 



would say that the picture was a studio piece, 
the work of a Japanese assistant. Then the 
Berenson of that day would come along and 
look it all over very carefully and get much 
interested in the spirituality of the face. He 
would say that there was something very soft, 
very feminine, about it and he would wind up 
by attributing it to Miss So-and-So, another 
pupil. — But it would be a La Farge, all the 
same." 

He had scholarship himself, but he was more 
than modest about it, and, though he did not 
distrust his judgment, he was never inclined 
to make too much of it or to lay down the law. 
He told me of a visit he once paid to the house 
of a collector who possessed an antique head, 
on which he wanted La Farge's opinion. In 
examining the thing, he said, he knew per- 
fectly well that he was not bringing into play 
the tremendous apparatus of the "expert." 
"But," he went on, "there was something 
about it. I remembered many things that I had 
often seen abroad — and I felt quite sure that 
it was one of those pieces of the late eighteenth 
or early nineteenth century, when the sculp- 
tors in France were doing things very like the 
antique. Perhaps some one had just tried his 



C 2 ^l ] 
hand at an imitation. I do not know. But I do 
not think it was really ancient Greek/ ' The 
whole impression that La Farge gave me in 
this episode was that of a man who knew his 
ground and had his inner conviction but ab- 
horred flat assertion and, moreover, was hum- 
bly willing to be convinced that he was wrong. 
Vehement assertion would have jarred him, 
would have wounded his sense of the subtle- 
ties of things and of the impossibility of giving 
to matters of art the hard, fixed outline of mat- 
ters of fact. And "attribution," with a good 
deal else belonging to the great mass of sci- 
entific paraphernalia, could not interest him 
overlong. With his artist's passion for intrinsic 
beauty such things sank for him more or less 
into the background. He saw the peril they 
involve of luring one away from the funda- 
mental things and of importing the spirit of 
dissension into the still air of delightful studies. 
Criticism, for him, was one of the gentlest of 
arts, and it was characteristic of him, by the 
way, to be most careful of its use amongst 
his contemporaries. He could never be per- 
suaded to criticise the works of his fellow art- 
ists and I never knew him to disparage one 
of them. 



n 2 4 2 / 

His insistence upon the main issue, the 
question of sheer beauty, regardless of the 
origin of a work, was manifest in his experi- 
ence as a collector. He assembled quantities 
of works of art in his time, especially works 
from the East, and he bought them with 
knowledge, as those familiar with his collec- 
tions well know ; but when he acquired a thing 
it was because he found it beautiful and loved 
it, and for no other reason. In 1908, when he 
disposed of some of his possessions at auction, 
he wrote this, when it was all over, to Mr. 
James Huneker : — 

"Let me say that I liked your reference 
to my sale — to me unfortunate — but things 
have sold badly and sales have no souls. I 
have never been a collector for every reason 
— and one principal one — that study is not 
in that way — and even influences one wants. 
I went to Yamanaka's a little while ago with 
two books to ask their value. I was told at 
once six or seven hundred dollars for one — 
the other none whatever. And yet the one 
without price was the one I look at occasion- 
ally to feel the breath of poetry blow free. But 
it had no duplicate to compete with it — was 
unknown to trade. Some of my things, but 



Official Presentation of Gifts of Food — Samoa 



C 243 ] 

very few, I had long. It is just fifty years ago 
that I bought my first Hokusai book — ima- 
gine the joy of first discovery. So I lit off and 
I have had my likings for Japan. In fact, I 
know of no artists before me. My French 
people laughed at me for <Les amours exo- 
tiques/ But here people thought moral ill of a 
lover of Jap art — as for the lover of Blake or 
Goya. I think I still have the bad name — 
tho' I parted with the objects, almost all, some 
forty years ago." 

He had discriminated from the beginning. 
It was with a critical mind that he had made 
his first European travels. Have we not seen 
how, even as a lad in the studio of Couture, 
he used an exacting judgment and weighed 
his problems in a delicate balance ? More and 
more as the years went on he came to rest 
upon first principles, to go only for that which 
he knew to be broad and lasting. His curi- 
osity was insatiable. For example, he de- 
lighted to tell how on a visit to Venice he had 
contrived to get hold of a forger of pictures 
and had studied with him long enough to 
learn all the secrets of the trade. But curi- 
osity never carried him off his feet, and he 
seemed almost uncannily immune from those 



C 244 3 

enthusiasms which so often disturb an artist's 
poise. More than once in our conversations 
some type of decadence would come up. No- 
thing could have been more instructive than 
his talk then. If the painter in question had 
any merits at all, no matter how slight, La 
Farge invariably brought them to the surface, 
and not even the worst sinner was carelessly 
or harshly dismissed. But gently, and often 
with a kindly humor, the man would be defi- 
nitely put in his place. You felt, when La 
Farge had finished, that above all things he 
had been just. I must cite here some passages 
from a letter of his written to Mr. Adams 
about Gauguin, the " Post-Impressionist/ ' 
whose sojourn in the South Seas predisposed 
La Farge to take an interest in his work : — 

"I forget everything more and more. I 
am therefore not quite certain that you are 
absolutely and entirely in the wrong about 
that wild Frenchman's being in Tahiti. I 
say < wild Frenchman ' — I should say stupid 
Frenchman. I mean Gauguin. 

"No, I think that he went there just as we 
arrived in Paris in 1891. His pictures were on 
show with Whistler's portrait of his mother. 
(You know the people will consider, or used 



C 2 45 ] 
to consider Whistler as eccentric.) I was then 
told that our Frenchman was going to our 
Islands and then Tati told me about him. 
Very little to me; perhaps more to you. After 
that accidentally I came across some letters 
of his, later published in some review, written 
from Tahiti. They were meant to be expres- 
sive of a return of the over-civilized to Na- 
ture. They were very foolish and probably 
very much affected but also naive and, I think, 
truthful. I never remembered to get the whole 
of them — I mean the letters. He described 
his meeting some of our ladies, the Queen in- 
cluded, and some of his quotations of con- 
versation were parlous. Still you know that 
the ladies are essentially feminine and will do 

anything they d p . Then there 

were descriptions of sunsets and the water and 
mountains and what evidently strikes even 
such as you and me. 

"And he didn't like the French of course, 
and he had no money or little, or made be- 
lieve to have little, and he went into the wild- 
erness and lived the simple life — the cocoa- 
nut and bread-fruit life — with some relative 
companion to charm the simplicity of food, 
etc. All that seemed natural enough ; stupid 



C 2 46 ] 
enough; and yet there was something of the 
man who has found something. 

"Then somebody sent me a catalogue of 
an exhibition of his. 

" I have no doubt that your description of 
the Frenchman's paintings, which I under- 
stand you have not seen, must be quite accu- 
rate if one could be accurate about the pecu- 
liar shows which some of those good people 
indulge in. I say indulge in ; I mean that they 
are driven to do something to attract atten- 
tion. Even their own attention. 

C< I abandon this tedious subject to say that 
I had not heard that Mrs. Gardner had bought 
the Rembrandt. ... I have no objection any 
more than you to her buying the Rembrandt 
for ,£30,000, but I wish instead that last year 
she had bought the big, naked woman that 
Velasquez painted. Or rather, no; I wish the 
picture had been bought for some place here 
where we could see it often. I saw it fifty 
years ago. It was strangely wonderful and 
almost uninteresting, but as a good lesson for 
students I should have much recommended 
it if I remember rightly ; and I say this with 
the fear of Mr. Comstock hanging over me. 
Certainly it was the picture of a lady without 



C 2 47 ] 
any clothes on and I never knew whether it 
was prose or poetry. At any rate, it was all 
the more wonderful, for those good boys, the 
Spaniards, were so strict and puritanical about 
painting anything in the slightest way du- 
bious." 

There is something very appropriate to our 
study of La Farge about that transition from 
Gauguin to Velasquez. Accidental enough, it 
is still symbolical of his invariable return from 
the work that passes to the work that endures. 
And even in the presence of the masters he 
maintained his clearness of judgment, dis- 
tinguishing between the one essential thing 
and all that which might be regarded as sur- 
plusage. In the summer of 1 906 we were both 
abroad and he wrote to me from Paris, speak- 
ing of illness, but suggesting that we might 
nevertheless explore some galleries together. 
The letter contains this luminous revelation of 
his point of view : — 

" If my eyes and the remainder of me get 
better, it would be a pleasure to be with you 
and perhaps even to look at works of art. 
Though I must own that as I get older, I am 
much less curious about seeing anything new. 
It is strange in one way, but in another I sup- 



C 2 * 8 3 

pose that it means that one grows reasonable. 
Our Japanese friend Okakura wrote to me 
once from Seville, where, as he said, he was 
listening to the songs of the nightingales and 
the cries of the gulls. He said that he had aban- 
doned his party of commissioners sent over by 
the Japanese Government; all museums, he 
said, were the same; all curators of museums 
were the same; he had seen two hundred 
Rembrandts and two hundred more would not 
teach him any more about the importance of 
this very great master. And I feel very much 
like our Japanese friend. I should almost pre- 
fer to see again one of the great paintings, in 
fact, I wish I owned one for, let us say, a week ; 
after that, one might not begin to look at the 
thing. Whitney offered me once a little Ra- 
phael to keep for a time, but the idea of a paint- 
ing as large as my hand on my mantelpiece 
which had cost $150,000 made me nervous. 
I should have had to put it on my mantelpiece 
in that lower apartment of the same house you 
are now in. All this has its meaning which you 
will understand/' 

As it happened our paths did not cross, but 
when at home again in the fall he told me 
of his travels and especially of his last day in 



[ 249 ] 

Paris, which he had spent with his doctor. The 
latter he described with much interest as such 
a thoroughly French type, a doctor first but 
full of intelligence about other things. He gave 
a large part of his day to his patient and they 
spent some of their time in the Louvre. La 
Farge got a guide and promised to pay him 
five francs extra if he would not open his 
mouth but would take them straight to the 
particular pictures that he, La Farge, remem- 
bered and wanted to see once more. It was all 
very delightful. It pleased him especially to 
see the Rubenses again, in a room that was 
not a gallery but really a room, and he mused 
over the idea of a banquet given amongst those 
glorious canvasses with all the guests in his- 
toric costume. The last thing that he looked 
at was in the room of the French Primitives, 
the amazing "Dead Christ " from Avignon. 
As they came out of the building the Doctor 
said, " Wait, I can tell you what your emotions 
were and how the pictures stirred you. I have 
felt your pulse. It has gone up according as 
you have been pleased." He told La Farge 
which pictures had affected him, and how, and 
there was no mistake in his report. "The most 
exciting of all," he said, "was the 'Dead 



C 250 ] 

Christ' — that was a shock/ ' "And," said La 
Farge, "he was right." 

There we have the clairvoyance of which I 
have spoken, his marvellous sensibility, the 
man who, as I have said, was the artist pure 
and simple. And yet here again we must turn 
back and recognize his complexity of soul, 
noting how emotion was with him saturated 
in intellect, how he ranged from the world of 
imagination to the world of solid fact, and os- 
cillated between ideas of intangible beauty and 
ideas of recorded things. In one of his letters 
to Mr. Adams he speaks of a decoration upon 
which he is at work and says, "I don't know 
that you'd like it. It is frightfully realistic — 
as if I had known Justinian and Trebonian 
quite well, just like other people, which, of 
course, is on one side quite absurd." It was his 
way, in his work, to come thus to close quar- 
ters with the figures of the past. It was the 
same in his dealings with literature. Witness 
these passages from another letter to Mr. 
Adams: — 

" I am doing some reading, if I can so call it. 
I am trying Plutarch again. I am all the time 
astonished at my ignorance and loss of mem- 
ory with regard to anything. I wonder some- 



C 251 3 

times how much you keep of your historical 
reading. By the bye, have you ever seen 
among those lovely letters of Henri IV one 
addressed to his wife, Marie de Medici, about 
Plutarch ? He writes from on board ship. He 
has gone out from Havre, I think, being of- 
fered a sail by the High Admiral, with some 
little meaning to it in the way of armament 
and war, and there being little to do he takes 
a volume of Plutarch, which he likes to have 
by him, and which he recommends to Marie 
— whether ironically or not, who could guess 
behind his smile of irony and good nature? If 
you can lay your hand on the letter, do read 
it ; I have it not by me. 

"Did I ever tell you one of my first impres- 
sions of Europe was having in my hands a lot 
of Henri IV letters to an old Protestant com- 
panion in arms? You, of course, have gone 
through all that sort of thing, as it were, by 
ancestral obligation, and the handwriting of 
the illustrious must have been familiar to you 
early." 

With this I must give another fragment 
illustrative of La Farge as a reader, for it is 
also — and in this peculiarly characteristic — 
illustrative of him as an artist. It occurs, again, 
in a letter to Mr. Adams : — 



[ 252 ] 

« I can't pity you for having read all Plato. 
I've made a shy at it several times these last 
five or six years and have always come to 
grief. Summer before last I took up the origi- 
nal at the beginning of the 'Republic.' lowed 
it to Socrates that painting him, I should do 
the best I could to be with him, see something 
of him. Besides you know that he was a sculp- 
tor and his talk is very much like studio talk, 
though better than what I usually get — to- 
day ! Well, I broke down on that first Greek 
page. Of course I knew all that it meant — 
having read it many times, but I could not 
read it properly. 

"I was reading it in my son John's copy, 
annotated by himself. He came in fresh from 
Europe, and then he too could not read the 
whole page right through. A few years had 
made that difference to him as a great many 
years had made to me. I shall have to try 
Plato again ; I can always enjoy him by skip- 
ping, but to read it right along shows me that 
I never was meant to follow the meanderings 
of philosophers — I mean the s)^stem-makers. 
I tried Aristophanes last year and got a good 
deal out of him, not all of poetry and deep or 
shallow meaning, but also I was tempted to 



[ 253 ] 

understand a little of the story of ordinary- 
Greek life. So that I cannot pity you as your 
letter seems to require." 

In the foregoing words, and in many others 
like them, La Farge has told us in this volume 
much of his thought on literature and on art. 
Much, too, concerning himself in his work 
has been set forth in his own language. One 
question, as I draw near to the close of my 
narrative, remains to be answered. What was 
his feeling about his career, about his work, as 
he looked back over it all? I know that it was 
a feeling of happiness in line things achieved, 
of modest pride. A great artist knows when 
he has effectively put forth his strength. Old 
age and illness could not quench in La Farge 
his joy in his genius, his consciousness of the 
beauty he had brought into the world. But 
throughout I have sought, wherever possible, 
to give his own reflections on what he had 
done, and here, on one of the most interesting 
questions in the study of his character, I am 
enabled, through the kindness of Mr. Adams, 
to cite from a letter to him what is in some 
sort LaFarge's artistic testament: — 

" As you accuse me, I still retain an interest 
in pictures, but not so great as when I had 



C 254 3 

seen fewer. Now one can hardly escape them 
in our good city of New York, as you will see 
when you drive up Fifth Avenue. 

" My own pictures interest me somewhat, 
as you remark. Some day I may do them for 
fun merely. If you remember your history 
you will remember that the Cat Princess on 
retiring into private life only killed mice for 
fun. I kill my mice for living, as she did be- 
fore her great success. But there is always 
some pleasure in the hunt. . . . 

"Perhaps I could answer that difficult 
problem you have put to me as to whether it 
would be better to destroy everything we 
ever did before we go. . . . One cannot judge 
for others, exactly, nor do I think for one- 
self very safely. ... As far as my experience 
goes I don't think it is worth while. 

" Summer before last fire managed to burn 
up my work and Saint-Gaudens's at St. 
Thomas's Church. So that I had an idea of 
how I should like to have my work destroyed. 
In this case I felt very badly because it seemed 
to me the only large piece of work — I mean 
painting — which I had a chance of doing, and 
which represented what I thought I could do 
in the art of painting, which is one of con- 



C 255 ] 

tinuous development ; and I had done some- 
thing new which nobody else had done, and 
which I to-day would not feel bold enough to 
undertake. Nobody in the future will ever 
know what I have done. 

"The view depends upon what we wish to 
have remain of ours. As Napoleon said, < It is 
rather a poor immortality/ but we cannot 
imagine ourselves non-existing. An absolute 
cessation is most difficult to grasp ; and yet 
the Frenchman wrote : — 

" Sous la tombe ou il dort que fait au grand Ho- 

mere, 
Que son nom soit fameux, ou qu'il ne le soit pas ? 

"I sometimes think that I shall be, or am, 
pleased at leaving some work which has turned 
the corner of art in some way and of which I 
feel confident as having marked distinctly a 
character in the arts. But even the develop- 
ment of the art of glass which I accomplished 
seemed to me a small matter while I did it, yet 
I feel how small it might be compared to what 
I could do if, like Rodin or Chanler, I did not 
have to catch mice to eat. You remember that 
when Whitney asked me to do glass for him 
and <do my damndest,' I told him that he had 



[ 256 ;] 

not money enough to pay for what I could do : 
that I should only do what I thought was fairly 
fitting. 

" From the point of view which may not 
have come up to you, a religiously attuned 
mind might desire a manner of destruction of 
the ambitions which might appear too earthly. 
You may remember that a French sculptor, 
Girardon, certainly no slouch, was pleased to 
think that he had not been a success. That, I 
suppose, was a relic or touch of Port Royal. I 
must look him up ; I mean his life and tradi- 
tions. There is no record of Fra Angelico 
having destroyed any of his frescoes or other 
pieces of work." 

These reflections, written in 1906, are 
prophetic in their philosophic calm. As his 
strength diminished and illness recurred he 
faced the inevitable end with an equable spirit. 
His soul's affairs were in order and he was con- 
fident of the future lying in the dark. He was 
content and unafraid. It was a lesson in think- 
ing fortitude to see him, as I did now and then 
in the last year of his life, and to hear his still 
courageous and, as always, gently humorous 
musings on conduct and fate. He spoke of 
these things, as for years I had known him to 



[ 257 ] 

speak on everything, with wisdom, with char- 
ity, and with that keen but somehow detached 
interest of his, the interest of the artist, to 
whom a problem of morals was as stimulating 
and as amusing as a problem in painting or 
glass. And in his personal applications of the 
spiritual ideas we discussed two golden ele- 
ments were clearly perceptible, his humility 
before the Divine power and his unshakable 
dignity. He knew, as I have stated early in this 
book, that he had borne no malice toward any 
of his fellow men, and, using his unerring sense 
of proportion in the contemplation of his own 
career, he felt that where he had been faulty 
he could meet the last assize with a conscious- 
ness that the balance had somehow been re- 
dressed. Meanwhile, he kept loyally at his 
work, snatching for it every spark of energy 
that was left him. But the burden was too 
heavy. There came a nervous breakdown and 
then great weakness. He was tired out. At 
Providence, Rhode Island, on Monday, No- 
vember 14th, 1910, he sank to rest. On the 
following Thursday, the 1 7th, the funeral ser- 
vices were held at the church of St. Francis 
Xavier in New York and his body was taken 
to a vault at Woodlawn. 



C 258 ] 

La Farge's mind was, in his own phrase, 
"religiously attuned/' The fact is writ large 
across his work. It was by a kind of inner spir- 
itual right that he entered the innumerable 
churches he decorated. He labored therein 
much after the manner of the mediaeval crafts- 
man, the craftsman of an age of faith. I say 
this, too, with a full realization of the fact that 
not all of the edifices he embellished, by any 
means, belonged to his own communion. But 
like his old grandmother, Madame Binsse de 
Saint- Victor, he was indisposed to make much 
of the details of worship. For him belief and 
cleanliness of soul were the main things. He 
could not have been a bigot if he had tried. His 
respect for the beliefs of others was illimitable. 
I remember his telling me with much pictur- 
esque detail of his coming across certain dis- 
creetly veiled survivals in the South Seas of 
the cult for "long pig," and of the social tra- 
ditions they still preserved amongst divers 
chiefs and their followers. Whatever was mon- 
strous in the subject was so obvious as to be 
taken for granted. LaFarge could dispassion- 
ately appreciate, nevertheless, the point of 
view of his islanders. He was far from de- 
liquescing, however, into an attitude of ami- 



able condonation. His intellect might range, 
but his soul was set upon a rock. And, more- 
over, from his religious inheritance, from the 
training of his childhood and youth, he never 
wandered. In his generation, more perhaps 
than in our own, the church played its part 
from day to day in a man's life. It was not 
separated in his thoughts from his other in- 
terests but was intertwined with them and 
affected their development. I have shown him 
in his young manhood sympathetically for- 
gathering with Paul de Saint- Victor and his 
rather pagan friends, but he was equally at 
home in very different circles. Recalling his 
pre-Raphaelite intimacies he told me that he 
immensely liked Christina Rossetti. She was a 
personality, he said, maintaining that it was as 
she put herself into her poetry that she made 
it interesting. They used to talk together about 
religion, and, he said, "She must have thought 
me a very spiritual person. It was odd, but I 
could tell her things she didn't know about 
Romanism, which was blurred for her by her 
father's Dantean, anarchistic ideas and the 
pressure of things English around her." No 
pressure around him could wean La Farge 
from the church into which he was born. As 



C 2 ^° 3 

his son, Father John, told me, he died in the 
possession of a lively Christian faith — and it 
was the faith of his fathers. 

It was the faith, too, of that European civil- 
ization toward which in so many of the rela- 
tions of his life he instinctively turned, the 
faith, through the centuries, of men like him- 
self. "The man of imagination/' says Mat- 
thew Arnold, "nay, and the philosopher, too, 
in spite of her propensity to burn him — will 
always have a weakness for the Catholic 
Church, because of the rich treasures of hu- 
man life which have been stored within her 
pale." It was through this human power, as 
through her purely spiritual authority, that 
the Roman Church drew La Farge to her 
bosom, and he found repose there, too, by 
virtue of his accord with historic tradition. 
When Velasquez died King Philip and his 
courtiers, paying tribute to him as to a great 
painter, paid tribute to him also as to one of 
themselves. They buried him as a Knight 
of the Order of Santiago. So it was fitting for 
La Farge to carry to his grave, affixed to his 
coat, the insignia of the Legion of Honor, mute 
symbol of his kinship with France and thereby 
with the ancient order of things. He was, in 



I 261 ] 

truth, a representative of that order, and his 
death may be said to have snapped a link be- 
tween the art of America and the art of Eu- 
rope in its Golden Age. 

He was our sole "Old Master/' our sole 
type of the kind of genius that went out with 
the Italian Renaissance. To say this is no 
disparagement of those other creative artists 
whose names give lustre to our annals. It is 
simply to suggest his alliance with a specific 
tradition, the tradition of men such as Leo- 
nardo and Raphael. Like them he was a type of 
intellect governing and coloring imagination 
and emotion and expressing itself with a cer- 
tain natural tendency toward the grand style. 
Overlaid upon this central strength of his were 
all the riches of a wonderful personality, all 
the traits of a man whose feeling for the past 
never for a moment detached him from the 
current of modern life. His was probably the 
most complex nature in our artistic history, 
and, indeed, he had in this respect no parallel 
among the masters of his time abroad. And 
every impulse of this myriad-minded man was 
an impulse toward beauty. That it was which 
gave value to his work and endued him with 
an incomparable charm. 



C 262 3 

His fame is largely that of a great colorist, 
who made his mark in monumental mural 
decorations and in windows of stained glass. 
In both these fields he was wont to illustrate 
noble subjects, and the loftiness of his ideas 
was also made known through his easel pic- 
tures and through his essays and addresses on 
painting. He had repute as a traveller, gained 
through his enchanting souvenirs of Japan and 
the South Seas. His outstanding character as 
a painter and as a worker in glass has been 
enriched and made the more beguiling in the 
public mind by the sense of his versatility, of 
the grace and the originality with which he 
touched many interests. Yet the La Farge to 
whom I would above all pay tribute is the La 
Farge who was, in a sense, greater than all of 
his works, the La Farge who was, to those 
who knew him well, a lambent flame of inspi- 
ration. 

There was something Leonardesque about 
him, something of the universal genius. There 
was probably no subject of interest to man 
which was not of interest to him. He drank 
of civilization as one drinks from a bubbling 
spring. He knew it in those aspects which be- 
long to antiquity, through all the long story 



C *63 ] 
which stretches down from Greece and Rome 
and the immemorial East to our own day of 
industrialism and politics. Side by side with 
the mundane transactions of humanity his 
mind sought to keep pace with the philoso- 
phies and religions of the world. It was not 
with any pedantry that he assimilated his 
knowledge of these things — or used it. It was, 
rather, with the ardor of a thinker having an 
incurable zest for the soul's experience that 
he constantly read and thought, and read and 
thought again, until his intellect was a very 
cosmos of sensations. Out of it poured his 
paintings and his other works, for he was ever 
the artist, the maker, the man who must put 
his ideas into tangible form ; and out of it there 
came also what I can only describe as a fer- 
tilizing force, a spirit immanent in everything 
that he did and vivifying his unforgettable 
talk, a spirit making him a singular instance 
of constructive power. When we lost him we 
lost a great character. 

Finis. 



INDEX 



About, Edmond, 77. 

Adams, Henry, 16, 164, 190, 

212, 226, 233, 234, 237, 244, 

250, 251, 253. 
Alma-Tadema, L., 37. 
Angelico, Fra, 108, 256. 
Architectural League, the, 224. 
Aristophanes, 252. 
Arnold, Matthew, 260. 
"Ascension," The, 161, 208. 

Baltimore decorations, the, 181. 
Balzac, H. de, 12, 57, 72. 
Bancroft, John, 121. 
Barre de Nantueil, Vicomte de 

la, 46. 
Barnes, Grace Edith, 35, 37, 

89, 90, 131, 232. 
Bartholdi, Auguste, 154. 
Barye, A. L., 70, 149. 
Baudelaire, C, 77. 
Bing, M., 193. 
Blake, William, 138, 243. 
Blanc, Charles, 69. 
Boccaccio, 52. 
Bode, Dr. W., 38. 
Boissier, Gaston, 25. 
Bonaparte, Joseph, 46. 
Booth, Edwin, 138. 
Bossuet, $6. 
Boughton, G. H., 109. 
Brattle Street Church, Boston, 

154. 
Brooks, Phillips, 158. 
Brown, Ford Madox, 137, 187. 
Bullard, Francis, 188. 
Burne-Jones, E., 87, 186. 
Burnham, D. H., 230. 



Byron, Lord, 31, 57. 

Cadwalader, J. L., 230. 

Cellini, 218. 

Chanler, R., 255. 

Chasse'riau, Th., 84, 104. 

Chavannes, Puvis de, 25, 85, 93, 
96. 

Chevreul, M. E., 87. 

Confucius, 181. 

Congregational Church, New- 
port, 220. 

Conway, Sir M., 86. 

Corday, Charlotte, 80. 

Corneille, 57. 

Corot, J. B. C, 128, 229. 

Courier, Paul Louis, $7. 

Couture, T., 89, 91, 93, 96, 1 10, 
117, 243. 

David, J. L., 82. 

Delacroix, E., 31, 85, 96, 100, 

104, 149, 186, 238. 
Derby, Dr. R. H., 188, 195. 
Dewing, Maria Oakey, 133. 
Donald, Dr. E. W., 162, 227. 
Diaz, N., 70. 
Du Fais, John, 159. 
Duff, Sir M. E. Grant, 77. 
Dupre*, J., 104. 
Durand-Ruel, M., 185. 
Durer, 69. 

Fantin-Latour, H., 133. 
Fe'lix, Lia, 76. 
Flaubert, G., 77, 134. 
France, Anatole, 25, 100, 134. 
Fromentin, E., 238. 



I 266 ] 



Gambrill, Richard, 109. 
Gardner, Mrs. John L., 115, 

246. 
Gauguin, P., 244, 247. 
Gautier, Th., 77, 83. 
Gavarni, 77, 100. 
Gebhart, E., 25. 
Ge'rome, J. L., 84. 
Gilbert, Cass, 172. 
Girardon, F., 256. 
Goncourts, the, 75. 
Goya, F., 243. 
Grandville, J., $6. 
Grenier, E., 78. 
Gue'rin, P. N., 82. 
Guerrier, General, 43. 
Guilbert, Melanie, 80. 

Hecker, Father, 120. 

Heine, H., 72, 136. 

Henri IV, 41,251. 

Henri V, 57. 

Hobbes, John Oliver, 3. 

Hokusai, 235. 

Homer, 56. 

Homer, Winslow, 70, 183. 

Houghton, Mr., 138. 

Hugo, Victor, 77. 

Huneker, James, 242. 

Hung Ai, 143. 

Hunt, R. M., 109, 153. 

Hunt, W. M., 96, no, 119, 132, 

158. 
Huysmans, J. K., 33. 
11 Hynerotomachia Poliphili," 



Incarnation, Church of the, 

New York, 160. 
Ingres, J. A. D., 82, 84, 100, 

104. 
Inness, George, 71. 



James, Henry, 35, 117. 
James, William, 117. 
Johannot, Tony, $7. 
Johnson, Dr., 37, 233. 
Johnston, Humphreys, 19. 
Joncquiere, J. de, 41. 
Josephine, Empress, 57, 
Jowett, Benjamin, 176. 

Kaiser, the, 37. 
Keats, John, 207. 
King, Clarence, 26, 198. 

La Farge, Father John, 252, 

260. 
La Farge, J. F. de, 43, 52, 57, 

73, 79, 9o, 97- 

La Farge, Mrs. Margaret Ma- 
son Perry, 120. 

La Fontaine, 52. 

Lamartine, 74, 78. 

Landor, W. S., 40. 

" Last Valley, The," 186. 

Lathrop, Francis, 159. 

LeBon, G., 221. 

Leclerc, General, 43. 

Lemoyne, J. B., 63. 

Leonardo, 261. 

Lever, Charles, 60. 

Loti, Pierre, 25. 

Low, A. A., 122. 

Luther, 53. 

Maistre, J. M., de, 80, 81. 
Mantegna, 24. 
Marat, 80. 
Maroncelli, 59. 
Martin, Homer, 71. 
Matthews, Brander, 239. 
May, Edward, 91. 
Maynard, G. W., 32, 159. 
J^Tazzini, 60. 



i 2g 7 : 



McKim, C. F., 188, 225, 230. 
McKim, Mead & White, 224. 
Medici, Marie de, 251. 
Michael Angelo, 36, 210, 225, 

235- 
Millet, J. F., 84, 96, in, 116, 

229. 
Millet, F. D., 159. 
Mocquard, J. F., 76. 
Moliere, 57. 
Monet, C, 185. 
Moreau, G., 85, 210. 
Musset, A. de, 72. 

Nadar, 74. 

Napoleon I, 53, 57, 60, 255. 
Napoleon III, 60, 155. 
Newman, Cardinal, 68. 
Normanby, Marquis of, 40. 
Norton, C. E., 188. 

Okakura, 18, 22, 103, 124, 166, 
181, 248. 

'•Paradise Valley," the, 122, 

127, 129, 132, 156,208. 
'•Peacock Window," the, 199, 

208. 
Pellico, Silvio, 59. 
Piombo, Sebastiano del, 64. 
Pisanello, 24. 
Plato, 175, 252. 
Plutarch, 250. 
Post, G. B., 109, 152. 

Rachel, 45, 76. 
Racine, 57. 

Raphael, 7$, 107, 248, 261. 
Reid Music Room, the, 161. 
Reinach, Salomon, 25. 
Rembrandt, 94, 108, 124, 235, 
246. 



Re nan, Ary, 183. 
Renan, E., 25, 77. 
Richardson, H. H., 152. 
Rimmer, Dr. W.. 142. 
Rochambeau, Admiral, 65. 
Rodin, Auguste, 38, 149, 255. 
Rome, King of, 57. 
Rosa, Salvator, 63, 
Rose, G. L., 159. 
Rossetti, Christina, 259. 
Rossetti, D. G., 38, 137, 186. 
Rossetti, W. M., 137. 
Rousseau, Th., 96, 118, 128, 

186, 229. 
Rubens, 95, 98. 
Ruskin, J., 68, 72, 82, 86. 
Ruysdael, S., 64. 

Sainte-Beuve, C. A., 77. 
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 20, 

22, 32, 162, 204, 229, 231, 

254. 
St. Paul decorations, the, 138, 

172. 
St. Thomas's Church, New 

York, 160, 204, 229, 254. 
Saint-Victor, Binsse de, 44, 50, 

56, 62, 64. 
Saint-Victor, Madame Binsse 

de, 50, 58, 258. 
Saint-Victor, J. B. de, 50, 79, 

86. 
Saint-Victor, Paul de, 50, 74, 

83, 86, 126, 259. 
Sand, George, 134. 
Sargent, J. S., 157. 
Scudder, Horace, 137. 
Smith, S. L., 159. 
Socrates, 14, 252. 
Stendhal, 80. 
Stevens, Alfred, 144. 
Stillman, W. J., 109. 



C 268 1 



Strange, Henry Le, 89. 
Sturgis, Russell, 29. 
Swinburne, A. C, 231. 

Taine, H., 236. 

Ticknor and Fields, 137. 

Tintoretto, 210. 

Titian, 36, 98, 210. 

Toussaint, 43. 

Trinity Church, Boston, 153, 

156, 228. 
Troyon, C, 70. 
Turner, J. M. W., 57, 72. 

Uchard, Mario, 77. 

Van Brunt, H., 109, 186. 
Vanderbilt house, the, 204. 
Van Home, Sir W., 115. 
Vedder, Elihu, 132. 



Velasquez, 98, 107, 246, 247, 

260. 
Vernet, H., 63. 
Victoria, Queen, 154. 
Viollet-le-Duc, 88, 153. 
Voltaire, 56, $7. 

Ward, J. Q. A., 232. 
Ware, William, 109, 186. 
Watson Memorial Window, 

the, 183. 
Watteau, 161. 
Watts, G. F., 210. 
Wellington, Duke of, 220. 
Whistler, 13, 19, 31, 123, 136, 

207, 233, 238, 244. 
White, Stanford, 117, 163, 224. 
Whitney, W. C, 143, 248, 255. 
" Wolf Charmer, The," 1 39, 142. 
Wormeley, Miss K. P., 12. 



CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS 
U . S . A